Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Run

Wow, how the time has flown. We are now in our second full week of performances. As I expected, I am exhausted, particularly after two-show days. And if I am, you can imagine what Jeffrey Demunn and others who have more stage time feel like.

Short, intense rehearsal periods like the one we had for King Lear are so engrossing that once a show opens, you have to remember you have a life outside of performance and many many other things to do. My sister is getting married two weeks after Lear closes, so you can imagine my panic when, after opening night, I awoke, took a nice long yawn and thought, "Oh God, I have to get my dress hemmed, buy some shoes, write an unforgettable maid of honor toast, come up with the perfect gift for my sister, send out invitations for a last-minute shower I'm throwing, AHHHHHH!!!" Not to mention prepare for upcoming jobs and maybe squeeze in some time for some basic errands and chores around the house. Oh, and maybe I'll get a bike ride in. Oh, and BLOG, BLOG, BLOG!!

Three weeks of eight shows a week seems like a lot, but it flies by. Here I am, halfway through those 3 weeks and of course I feel like I haven't gotten anything done. Oh boy. When's vacation?

I love the run of a show, however. Showing up and running the show is my job, yes, and, like anyone else, sometimes I feel reluctant to go to know who you are. But truly, running through the same actions every night (and day) with the same people is a ritual. And the more you perform that ritual, the deeper it imbeds itself into you, and settles as a whole. That, to me, is the best part of the process. I always look forward to the moments you come across, during a run, where you say the same words you've been saying for over a month, but they come out differently, or they resound for you in a more profound way than before. That ideally happens every show. That's what I look for anyway.

And then there are the reviews. Oh, critics. Thanks for keeping our heads out of the clouds, if only temporarily. Every actor makes his or her own choice to read reviews during the run of a show, or whether to read them at all. Whether you do or not, you respect the professional space of the theatre and do not discuss what you've read backstage. I choose to read them. I keep a pretty good perspective on them, remembering that the review is only one person's opinion, and such. That is, until you read something that, initially, sets you in a panic; something that you realize many people have also read, many of whom, perhaps, you would like to work for in the future; something that you wish had never been printed. It happens.

I lose my perspective briefly, have my little anxiety attack, and then......move on. I may take the critique into consideration, but what I get up and do every night (and day) is tell a story, as honestly and responsibly as I can. And I get to tell it with some incredibly talented actors and wonderful people.

And I'm still learning of course. I realize, to quote Mr. Lear, "I am not ague-proof."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The funny thing is...

Funny how the play you're rehearsing seeps into your psyche.

Lear is perhaps a love story about a father and daughter. A tragic love story. And everything Cordelia does is always about her father.

I went to a dinner party at my parents' house recently. And as our pre-dinner cocktail hour went on, I suddenly realized that I had hardly left my father's side. I found him next to me on the couch; standing at my side in conversation with groups of guests. And, of course, I was responsible for this continuous proximity.

I am so immersed in this thing, this story. We create such an intense connection to a specific world and people for 2 months. And then it will vanish.

What a bizarre career choice I've made.......for now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Fully knowing the risk of sounding amateur: Shakespeare is hard.

I have been known to be too hard on myself, but I know I am not alone in this notion. I have been hearing similar lamentations around the rehearsal hall regarding the difficulties in mounting King Lear. Pardon me, let me rephrase. Rehearsal has been hard.

It's just that King Lear exists in a setting and under such circumstances that are utterly epic, but we cannot aim for epic. I cannot instantly have an epic portrayal of Cordelia, and I can't try to reach those heights everyday. She must be pieced together bit by bit, and epic is never the goal. The goal is to portray her truth, do it honestly and to the best of my ability. So why is that so difficult? For one, it is easy to get intimidated by the smart and talented people in the room. A little thought leaks in that suddenly everyone will realize I am an impostor. "Get her out of here! She can't act!" And I'll be chased down Heinz Avenue with pitchforks. I have to remind myself that I am there for a reason; I was cast for some reason.

For two, I end up wrestling with a lot of personal demons. Why? Because I'm obnoxiously complicated (I'd say "like anyone," but I don't mean to offend, don't mean to offend). But it's true. During this rehearsal process, more than others I've had in the recent past, that little self-negating voice in my head has been so darn LOUD! And as an actor, this will get you nowhere. You must be open and free. You must clear the censor OUT and let the play IN. It's easy, really. As Mr. Demunn, who is playing my father Lear, says, "Just watch a child playing, and you'll get it." Now, I get that in theory. But I told Jeffrey maybe I'll understand that someday, as in, the further I move away from childhood. How backwards is that?

But, you know, everything's going to be fine. I saw my grandma today, and while it never hurts to get a pep talk from your biggest fan, she also told me to just breathe. I love my grandma. And she's right. Just breathe, and do what you do.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sculpting Tool #1: Patience

Ah, the process.

I am, by nature, impatient. This charming quality was flat out inherited; it is not by choice. When I need to walk, I walk FAST. When I'm going on a jog, I RUN. I don't take this to an obnoxious extreme, particularly when other people are involved. But it is something that bubbles up: an underlying anxiety to "get there." Where? In this case, to the finished product. To opening night, essentially.

Unfortunately this quality doesn't marry well with the process, which is perhaps what acting is all about. It is ever-evolving. Even after a show opens, it continues to morph and develop. It never really....arrives. Thus, for me, the rehearsal process is a constant mental negotiation. I need to remind myself that what we do on our feet the first day is not a performance. I need to remind myself to step back and make sure I am being open to possible discoveries, possible moments begging to be acknowledged, and thus created. That is what makes rehearsal FUN: it is the place to play and discover and PLAY and have FUN! Have FUN Sarah, have FUN!

It is so odd to use this term for the rehearsal of something like King Lear. But it really does happen. The moment you begin to find something, an inkling of who your character really is, a sense of what an exchange with another character might be, even realizing how your shoes or coat may affect starts to be fun.

Anyway, these have been my thoughts lately in the rehearsal room. Watching Anthony Fusco create his Fool has been particularly inspiring in this regard. Each stab at a scene is done differently; he finds new ways to make use of the stage and scenery. And he's smart and funny. Which makes rehearsal quite entertaining.

Another striking thought while watching rehearsal: the carving-out of a play. (Please bear with me a moment as I digress into a maddening swell of thoughts that even I find exhausting.) Each second of each rehearsal, a possible choice can be made. A move of the head might communicate one thing. The choice to sit, another. There are billions of directions to take a character, a line, a response. And with this specific cast, with our specific director and designers, in this specific moment in time and in this place, we will create OUR King Lear. It could be anything, and yet, through our process we will carve out our very own sculpture to present to you, dear readers. This always fascinates me.

And of course, every good sculpture requires patience. I guess the process is good for some things.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In the beginning...

Hello hello hello dearest Readers! What an incredible first week! I apologize for taking so many days to write; this play has already and totally consumed me. And how wonderful it is to be so consumed. How wonderful to sit for 3 and a half days and pour over one of the most complex texts of the ancient, yet ageless, Shakespeare, and to transgress into lengthy discussions of what one simple word simply...means. And I say this, readers, with absolutely no sarcasm whatsoever. Wow, I am a nerd.

I have always been a fan of words, books, reading, writing, even the mere paper upon which one might put words. Yes, it's that bad. As a child, on numerous errands with my mother to grocery stores, banks, Mervyn's, and the like, my favorite stops were at stationary stores. A treat to satiate my impatience with the errands might have been a tablet of paper and a new pen, as opposed to the syrupy goodies that other impertinent pipsqueaks required to go along for the ride. Wow; I am a nerd, AND a liar. I was never above those lowly treats; I am a sugarholic to this day.

To the point! I am so happy to be back at Cal Shakes and to be working on a tremendous play with some old friends, and many new. When Cal Shakes asked me to be a "blogger" on this production of King Lear, I thought of all the blogs I'd read in the past: those of Domenique Lozano (who was my mentor on Nicholas Nickelby in 2005), the hilarious Joan Mankin, who I believe coined the phrase "Dearest Readers," my friend and neighbor Catherine Castellanos, and of course Jimmy Carp. To follow in their stead is an honor, and to connect with you (yes you, I am speaking to you, and ONLY you) prior to your viewing of our production is very exciting to me. And what a production it has promise to be...

First and foremost, let me tell you a bit about our cast: the extremely talented Jeffrey Demunn is playing King Lear, Anthony Fusco is his Fool, Jim Carpenter is the Earl of Gloucester, Andy Murray is Earl of Kent, Delia Macdougall is my eldest sister Goneril, Julie Eccles is my older sister Regan, Andrew Hurteau and L. Peter Callendar play their husbands, respectively, Ravi Kapoor is Edmund, Eric Lochtefeld is his half-brother Edgar...this is but to name a few of a very intelligent cast. Oh, and I will be playing Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia who, I have to say, gets the short end of the stick in this one. Poor Cordelia; she only wants to tell the truth. What she learns, in the first scene anyway, is that the truth gets you nowhere.

This is by no means the lesson of the play. Having only rehearsed (on our feet) the first scene, in which Cordelia is rejected from Lear's paternal care forever for telling the truth, it is fresh in my mind. King Lear is one of those great plays to rehearse, in that every second of its rehearsal is a challenge. We have fun, too, don't get me wrong. We always have fun or I don't think a single one would do what we do. But one must be alert, focused, have one's ears open, ....and heart too. I find that the only way to begin to figure out such a role as Cordelia is to keep my heart open and, simply, let the story in. Here is a young girl who deeply loves her father, perhaps to a fault, and because she refuses to play a game in which he vainly makes his daughters' love for him the subject, Lear kicks her out of the kingdom and the family. To truly understand this, one cannot take an academic approach. I will do all my text work, make sure I make sense of the words, the lines, so that you might better understand me, but when all's said and done, this is a role with high emotional demands. And I will do my best to rise to the occassion. More on this later...

Oh, where are my manners!?

It was nice to finally meet you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This is just a test.