Yesterday, our director busted out the words that strike terror into the casts of shows the world over; “We open two weeks from tomorrow”.
Ensue panic. I’m not ready. I’m barely off book, definitely not word perfect, some scenes are working but some scenes definitely aren’t, we don’t have a set yet, we don’t have all our costumes yet, I’ve not rehearsed with some of my more important props, I’m not really feeling it yet, nothing’s sliding into place, oh my god why is this happening and why don’t we have more rehearsal time this show is going to suck why did I encourage my friends to come see it?!
….whoa. Slow down there, cowgirl.
First things first: up until this week, things were going peachy keen and dandy. You were happy with the progress. You were excited about the potential. There’s a reason you told your friends to come see the show. You believe in the talent around you. You believe that this is worth seeing.
Next: I know it’s been a long time since you’ve been in a show, self, but remember: this is natural. Panic time always happens last minute. Always. There’s never enough rehearsal time. There’s always something to work on. You are making art and art is a process, not a product. No matter how much time you have, there will always be something more you want to do or add to make a show better. This stage of the game is developmentally appropriate.
Next: Yes, I know you’re coming down to the wire, but you still have some time. A lot can
happen in two weeks. You don’t want the show to peak before its prime and if things were going perfectly right now, chances are some monkey wrench would have completely thrown it off in two weeks for your opening. Take a breath and analyze what you need to do to make what’s not working work.
Next: This, remember, is why you aren’t a full-time professional actor. This part of the process. The sheer terror being blocked up emotionally. The idea that an entire production rests on your shoulders and, should you give a less-than-stellar performance, you would be letting everyone down and all this hard work would have been for nothing. Doing things that scare you build character and there’s a reason you came out of retirement to perform this part. Despite your insecurities, you know you can do this. You’ve been waiting a long time to do this. You’ve been storing up those life experiences so that you have the emotional dexterity to do this. So buck up, face down your demons, and prove to yourself that you’re capable of what you know you can do. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but the ability to overcome those obstacles which seem largest and darkest is what makes you a better human being in the end. And, by the way, a better actor.
Next: While Rosalind is one of the folks who has the most lines in the show (and, by the way, one of the most blathering characters in the canon – she’s the largest of Shakespeare’s female roles with a total of 685 lines, also putting her at the seventeenth largest role in the canon, but it’s hard to compete with Hamlet who has 1506 lines. Statistically, Rosalind speaks 23.7% of the play as the show consists of some 2,884 lines while Hamlet speaks 37% of the play since Hamlet is a massive 4,070 lines) that doesn’t mean that I’m alone onstage. I have a wonderful cast of actors to help me along – my Celia, Touchstone, and Orlando are solid (and, as I’ve found out, there’s not a single scene where I’m onstage without one of these three people). They are there to play with me, to help me, and to carry the show with me. Yes, I talk a lot, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a one-woman show. Trust your fellow actors and let them help you because they are good at what they do.
Also, you have one of the greatest coaches you can think of helping you out. Aforementioned gay best friend has really busted butt to make sure I’m good to go, and has generously offered to continue helping me work through these last minute difficulties. He’s awesome and I can’t imagine going through this process without him.
Next: You’re doing this because you love telling a story, you love Shakespeare’s words, and you love theatre. Remember what you love about these things, take a deep breath, and go have fun. It’s called a “play” for a reason.
Suffice to say, I’m going to be working my fingers to the bone getting ready for this show. I think it’ll pay off in the end, and I really hope that you’ll be able to come see it.
Despite my massive issues with stage fright which compound themselves when there are people I know in the audience.
Come see it anyway. It’ll at least be worth a good hard laugh at my expense.