Monday, July 24, 2017

I'm deep in the woods outside D.C.

Friends and Blogistas:  I started writing this on July 18, after just two performances at 1st Stage Theater in Tysons Corner, outside of Washington D.C.  

Since then HICK got a good review on the DC Metro Website:

July 18, 2017

We got a nice interview in the Washington Post!

I am LOVING the Washington Post.  They had EIGHT PAGES of funnies in the Sunday paper.  I’m a sucker for the Sunday funnies. 

And this is a link to a very long hilarious article of interviews with theater critics about their opinions on..... INTERMISSION!!!

Carolyn and I are staying with Judy Mueller, one of the theater board members, who lives at the end of the road that's at the end of the road that's at the end of the road. 
I mean, we are in the middle of the forest in a beautiful house. 

I'm sitting on the deck outside the kitchen.

Yesterday, we saw a red fox, very relaxed, sauntering across the lawn, stopping for a leisurely scratch.  There was a bobcat the day before -- unseen by me.  Deer, of course.  People are ambivalent about them, at best.  Not only do they carry Lyme disease, they crash into moving vehicles at unexpected moments.  Even very slowly moving vehicles.   I wonder why.  Well, they're still beautiful.  Large hawks circling and birdsong everywhere. Two nights ago, Carolyn witnessed a huge cloud of fireflies.

It's early, 7:30 in the morning, so it's still pleasant to be outside.  I think I'm going to get up early every day to enjoy this beautiful place.  Everyone warned me about D.C. in the summer and it's true, I've never experienced such damp suffocating heat.  Like being covered by a wet blanket.  

Of course the best thing about Judy’s house is JUDY!  She started a women’s resource center in the 70s and has been to many countries in the world working with the women there.  We loved hearing her stories.  Once she fell down the stairs and broke two ribs two days before she was supposed to leave for Kazakhstan (or one of the ‘Stans).  The doctor told her she had to cancel her trip, she refused, so he loaded her up with painkillers and off she went for three weeks!

Judy was truly fascinated with OUR work.   Although she’s on the board of the theater and loves theater, she’s never actually MADE theater.  She was so curious to learn the intricacies of this very complicated, astonishingly labor-intensive activity.  Needless to say, Carolyn and I were very happy to enlighten her.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone so curious about my work. 
The lovely Judy relaxing on the kitchen deck. 

So the technical rehearsals took much longer than expected -- which is to be expected.  I wasn't present for a lot of it.  Carolyn, as director, was in charge, working out the cues and lighting design with Pablo, the designer.  There was some problem with the sound -- crucial for HICK, and they had to consult with Audrey, our sound designer in Berkeley.  Does a tech rehearsal EVER happen without some unexpected problem?  I don't think so.  Carolyn is very meticulous about all the cues and has a strong vision about the lighting.  She wants it to be beautiful and she wants me to be easily seen at all times.  It’s usually not so easy to accomplish both of these things.  So she’s very focused. 
Carolyn working on light cues

 According to everyone, the lighting WAS beautiful.  Unfortunately, I can never SEE the lighting so it’s hard for me to appreciate it.

Anyhow, I was supposed to do a dress rehearsal the night BEFORE my first performance, but I ended up doing it on the afternoon of my first performance.  It's not ideal to perform HICK twice in one day.  It CAN be done.  I did it.  But my opening show ... I couldn't find the flow.  For me, acting is not about finding perfection and repeating it.  It's about finding a channel of energy so that I can EXPLORE.  But Thursday night I was grinding it out.  I'm not saying I was BAD.  I am NEVER bad.  But I was.... heavy.  I was NOT having fun. 

When I went out to the lobby after the show to talk to audience members who were hanging out, people said things like: 

"It's amazing how much work you do!" (I never want to hear that.)
"It was so painful sometimes, it was hard to watch."

These were very intelligent, discriminating women.  They were expressing their appreciation, and I took their comments very seriously.  I realized that I had gone way too far into the pathos and angst of Hick's story.  Not just THAT night, but problably in a LOT of performances.   What is it in me that finds despair and agony so DRAHMAHTIC???!!

I mean, there's pathos aplenty just in the facts of Hick's life.  I don't need to wallow.  I'm not saying there should be no heartbreaking moments.  But they should be MOMENTS.  Right, HIck?  I mean, YOU WERE LOVED BY ELEANOR ROOSEVELT!!!!  You had a lot of good times and joy.  You were part of history!

I spend a lot of time talking to the spirit of Hick, when I'm backstage waiting to go on. 

Carolyn and I talked the next morning after the opening, and she felt the same way as me.  We got very inspired about re-envisioning HICK and the feeling of the play.  One of the reasons that Carolyn and I still love working together after… oh… 40 years or so… is  that we so often resonate with each other’s ideas.  We really are on the same wavelength a lot of the time.

The amazing thing was that, when I looked at the script, I didn't have to change or add a word!  A line like "You loved me.  I must not be so awful," which Hick says to Eleanor's spirit in the last scene, can be said in a lot of different ways.  It can be said as a desperate grasping at straws.  Or it can be said as a sturdy claiming of her legitimacy as a human being. 

So for the second performance, I threw out the first interpretation, went for the second interpretation on that line and lot of others.  In fact, many of the lines I'd been saying from a position of pain and weakness were MUCH EASIER to say when I said them from strength.   
And I got more laughs than I had ever gotten.  I know it was partly this particular audience, but it felt GOOD.   Four more performances to go!

Here's our beautiful portable HICK set, which none of the Bay Area folks have seen.  This is without theater lighting.

 And here's a wonderful ad without a drop of hip or cool at the St. Louis airport. 

That's all for now.