In the process of writing my piece, memorizing my piece, learning how to act it, and then actually performing it, I learned several interesting things:
- It's best not to look directly into the eyes of people in the audience. Look in between them. They'll still think you're looking at them and feel included.
- You can actually think while you're performing. Not about picking up a loaf of bread or how your marriage is going, but stuff about your performance, such as, "Oh shit, I just missed a few lines. Can I go back and pick them up or should I just keep going?"
- You can track the amount the audience is laughing to see if you can squeeze out one more laugh during a funny part.
- Making people laugh is fun! It's on a par with getting that perfect scream while performing as a zombie at Darkwing Manor.
- Stay centered and let everyone else go nuts. It helps not to be an aspiring actor, which in my case is perfectly true.
Many weeks of writing and re-writing went into this, plus all the rehearsals, and then just one evening of tech rehearsal in the performance space the night before the show. In the three shows we did last weekend, the first one, Friday night, was more like a dress rehearsal with friends and family. We all felt well-supported by people who wanted us to do well. We were maybe 3/4 full. I have to admit, in the days preceding that first performance, I had to restrain myself from calling my co-actors to ask them if my piece was actually stupid and they were just humoring me to have that fourth piece in the show. But then I got onto the stage and people starting laughing at the parts I intended to be funny, and everything changed. I became a comedy performer for 23 minutes! Then Saturday night we had a full house, but I forgot about 2 minutes of lines in my piece. No matter. It was still funny and evidently made sense. The Sunday matinee was packed in spite of crappy weather, and incredibly well received. Everyone did great. We were fabulous entertainers!
Sensorily speaking, the Ashland Community Center is right across from Lithia Park, where Ashland Creek rushes by the edge of the park. I'd built my own "kelp stands" out of pvc pipe and satiny green fabric, crepe paper and wire, which, like the rest of our sets, needed to be removed from the building each day. By the third day they were getting a little worn, but I enjoyed carefully lifting two six-foot kelp trees in and out of my car with the creek thundering in the background. It's a creaky old building, and I quickly learned which floor boards would squeak the loudest when I was passing through the backstage area while the other actors were performing. Being early January, it was barking cold at night, but the heat in the building worked great. On the third day the stage itself developed a loud creak, which prompted me to instantly change some of my blocking at the beginning of my piece. I was afraid to eat a meal closer than six hours before each performance, although coffee and one of Cindy's peanut butter-chocolate brownies wound up being the perfect pick-me-up just before the show.
The amazing thing is that we got a write-up in "Revels," the Ashland weekly entertainment guide on Thursday, and then Friday we wound up on the cover of "Tempo," Medford's weekly entertainment guide. The cover! We know some cool people and besides, it's probably the slowest weekend of the year. I went right to the store and bought ten copies.The photo above doesn't include Amy Katrina, who turned in three fabulous performances as Vickie, the psycho inmate in "The Real Story," and Susan Knapp, the woman who wrote the piece Amy performed. Cynthia Rogan wrote and performed her piece, "Cat-A-Tonic," as Darla the cat lady, and Lyda Woods wowed everyone in her own psycho-thriller, "Ozma's Storm." The entire show was filmed, which I will eventually post once I have it.
For now, let me take the opportunity to thank my most beloved acting muses: Steve Buscemi, Anne Hathaway and Jim Carrey.