Well, that was fun.
The curtain has fallen for the last time in Arden and, I have to say, I well and truly miss it.
There are things that I had forgotten about being an actor. Things that I worked to remove from my memory (didn’t have to try very hard as I tend to forget negativity nearly instantaneously). One of those things is that awful feeling of emptiness you get as you leave the theatre for the last time after a show.
I’ve been living with this show since July. I got the happy phone call at the beginning of the summer and, ever since, Rosalind has been a presence at the back of my mind. She’s been part of my identity. The elation at having the opportunity to play her after a lifetime of wanting to and never thinking I’d get the chance, the thrill of falling in love every night, the knowledge that I’m speaking and working with words I’ve so long desired to resound in a roomful of audience members, it’s all been part of me.
And of course you become reliant upon the cast members and you forge relationships with these people with whom you’ve worked closely over the past several months. And the routine of going to rehearsal patterns your life. And the things you have to do to keep yourself going through the process are an ever-present factor in your day.
And, just like that, it’s all over. You strike the magnificent set down to bare stage, walk out of the theatre, and suddenly this world is gone and lives only in memory and archive. It’s an emptiness, a loneliness, and a feeling of utter hopelessness. Like, for a few brief moments, you just don’t know who you are anymore because this show has become part of you and, without it, some vital piece of your identity is missing.
As I told my cast-mate via text on Sunday: “Theatre is ephemeral. Each show is its own creature that lives and dies every night. I’d be pretty hard-hearted not to mourn a little creature that I loved”.
The only hope is in the next project; another bundle that will, inevitably, worm its way into your heart and stay there for a few months before the universe forcibly ejects it into the ether.
And then there’s the nature of acting in general. It’s one thing to conceptualize of the protean nature of the actor from a purely ideological standpoint, it’s another to live that nature. The constant shifting and changing, re-arranging and re-thinking of the self that an actor must do in order to fully commit to a role is utterly astounding. I marvel at the tenacity of spirit that it requires to constantly be doing this. In order to fully act a role, you really need to build yourself around that role and, when the show ends, rip yourself apart again. Imagine the emotional integrity required to do this (well) without going absolutely insane.
Oh yes, I was an actor in my younger years, but I really don’t think I understood acting until this production. Good actors require three things: some innate sense of natural talent, a vast amount of life experience, and training. Before this year, I had one and three, but was distinctly lacking in two. It’s truly unfortunate that acting is, for the most part, a young person’s field and yet, to become a great actor, you really require a lifetime of banked experience.
It’s why you see so many thirty-year-old Hamlets. The emotional maturity required for the role simply out-stripes the role itself.
I’ll admit it. I’m hooked again. The course of this production has made me recall the things I did love about theatre; and the things I didn’t love about theatre can (for the most part) be avoided by doing it as a hobby rather than a profession. It churns my stomach to think about auditioning as a lifestyle (again). I would rather not ever hear the words “type”, “marketability”, or “Equity Principle Auditions”. For that, there are shows I would like to perform and roles I would love to play. There are things I want to bring to the stage that I feel I am qualified to do.
And more than that, the joy that the rehearsal process brought me really added a layer to my life that went missing in my fondly-dubbed “retirement”. It’s not enough just to study theatre. To truly understand it, we have to live it. Theatre’s a lifestyle, not a field of purely academic discipline.
So, with that in mind, I’ve got some projects up my sleeve. I’ve got some willing cohorts. I may even have a willing venue.
Let’s see what we can make. You’d best keep your eye on that first folio, because the bitch is back.