Today at four, I sat onstage with a spotlight trained on my face, tears running down my cheeks as the last words in the final monologue of the show tumbled out of my mouth. “It’s hard to be an artist. You want so desperately to create something meaningful, but it’s unclear if you ever will.”
The house was full today, sold out even. The laughter throughout the first act bounced off the brightly painted walls of our sitcom-style set, ringing off the chandelier and jangling down the sink drain. The heat from the lights seeped into the red couch center stage and the painted front door, only cooling in the moments when the universe of the play shifted with a tinny, brain-searing noise– the noise of my character’s growing insanity.
In those moments, I could feel my voice catch, my breath lighten. I joked in the dressing room that my pupils were getting a major workout in this show, and it did feel that way.
Every night, I arrived at the theatre, downtown on Walker St., about an hour and fifteen minutes early. I was usually first. First things first, I changed into leggings and a loose tee, crossed my legs under me, and curled my hair into big, loose ringlets that would be completely nonexistent by the end of the show. Then some hairspray and some stretching, downward dogs and “huh-huh-mmmm-muh’s,” loosening and shaking out the tightness in my voice and my body. By this time, the green room would be full of the rest of the cast and crew, usually with lattes from next door and the bite of winter on their coats. Makeup was next, with poorly applied eyeliner and a pop of red lipstick. Put my first costume on, after changing without discretion or shame while continuing conversations with my castmates. And, at about 10 till showtime, the stage manager sent for me, and I blew kisses to the crowds in the greenroom and was preset on the balcony for my first monologue. Those fifteen minutes of watching the audience enter, the repetitive, comforting pre-show music, the quiet and the sense of place in this amazing, important theatre– every night I was reminded how lucky I was. And how much I want this.
The last three weeks have been the exemplars of the life I always wanted. For two hours, on eighteen separate occasions, I got to do exactly what I’ve spent my whole life dreaming of doing. Sometimes I find myself indignant that it can’t last forever, that such projects must end. I get angry that I have to go back to my real job, sad that I have to once again deal with the harsh realities of my life, of my chemo-ridden best friend, of my depression and my ED. Sometimes I’m beyond grateful for each moment, knowing that I am lucky to be there. Tonight, though, set struck and destroyed, lights removed, costumes dispersed, script filed away, I’m just really sad. There’s an emptiness in the center of my chest. Something so special, so much mine, so deeply fulfilling, so precious– it is a loss. And of course, I’m afraid of the openness of life now, life as an actor without an agent who just completed playing one of the greatest roles of her life. It’s a hard place to be.
But I go home for Christmas in two days, so that hopefully will help me come off this major sea change in my life. It is just so hard to let go of something that made me special and happy and feel accomplished. To be forced back to the drawing board is scary. I have faith, but I’m scared.
Write soon, loves.
“So I guess what I’m trying to say is… you grow up without any choices and then you start life and you don’t know how to do anything. And you’re afraid of change and you’re afraid of stagnation, and you’re jealous of everyone but you also think that everyone else is an idiot, and you hate being alone, but you’re afraid to really let yourself be with anyone, and you want to start over but there is no starting over, and you want to go home like Cincinatus, but there is no home to go home to and you want to quit but there is no quit and then you realize that maybe the only way out… is out.” –FDLF.