As the first weekend of performances is nearing its end, I’m reflecting a lot on what this journey has been for me. I’d given up on acting. Made an active decision that it wasn’t happening so with gut-wrenching grief officially gave up on it – except in the most incidental circumstances. I had been too busy, too preoccupied with producing and writing, had started to think I was meant for behind the scenes roles. I’d had the awkward and humility inducing experience of mentioning acting to others and, because it was not something they associated with me, had received that grimace-smile we all give when we think someone is trifling with something they don’t really know. I wanted to protest, “no really, I used to be legit. I was fucking great.” I was tired of being relegated to the stage directions ghetto, on the rare occasions I was asked to do anything. I recognized I was doing NOTHING to further that long ago held dream, so maybe it was just that, an old one. Maybe holding onto it while not really pursuing or even identifying with it anymore was holding me back from something else.
Then an old friend who had always known me as an actor first and foremost asked me to come play with her, exploring some plays she wants to possibly produce, floated the idea of actually performing together. It was fun, though a bit like waking up a limb that had gone to sleep. All prickly and odd. But it was an opening.
Then another call out of the blue. Would I be interested in playing a role? From my theatre mentor, whose directing I admired a great deal. Who knew intimately my capabilities. Who has an impossibly high standard for theatre and performers, who would never ask me if he didn’t think I’d bring gravitas to the part. Even I, who does not believe in signs, could not pass this off. Yes!
Then the reality, the doubts. The “what the hell was I thinking?” Performing a rehearsed, language laden, accent required, 30 minutes on stage alone, piece after 30 years?! Was I insane?
Every step of this has been a revelation; either peeling away years of blocks, or discovering surprising new things about myself. Do I think I’m still great? Eh. Depends on the day and the hour. But I have proven to myself that I can do it. That I can do it well. That it feels as amazing as it used to… Maybe more so, because I just have more life experience and can appreciate it more. And because I’m more mature, I am experiencing it without the same defensiveness, insecurities, misplaced ego, and etc that I can see now held me back before.
I have no idea if it means I’ll be jumping into auditioning or what I’ll be doing in future. But one thing I do know. My fractured dream is still a part of me and the next time someone raises an eyebrow at me, I’ll shrug it off.
That and feeling an audience respond just the right way at just the right time to something I’m doing is so fucking awesome.
We have 7 more performances. Spare Stage TALKING HEADS, by Alan Bennett, directed by Stephen Drewes