Monday, October 24, 2005

The Balcony Closes

We closed the Rogue Theatre production of Genet’s play with a Sunday matinee yesterday, ending 9 weeks of rehearsals and 3 weeks of performances.

For twelve weeks my life revolved around those rehearsals and performances. My normal work schedule was twisted out of shape with evenings, when I would ordinarily write, spent either in rehearsal space or at the theatre. I can hardly remember a “normal” dinner hour sharing an end-of-day meal with my wife, Katherine, during that time.

Like everyone else in the cast, all of whom had demanding daytime jobs, I had to find time and energy for life’s obligations. I supervised an enormously disruptive re-model of large portions of our home (bad call that); tried to write, and ran the necessary errands of householdery.

The whole process must have been more demanding on my fellow actors than it was for me…after all I am freed of the demands of the daily “nine to five” grind by the happy circumstance of a retirement bolstered by on-again off-again freelancing.

I realize, looking back, that despite other chores and obligations my consciousness was largely filled by the play, thought about the play, and learning my part. Reciting lines to myself became a compulsion and I would find myself saying lines of dialogue, or parts of lines, in utterly inappropriate places.

We hear people apparently talking to themselves in all sort of public spaces, but they are usually on cell phones. When we notice someone talking to himself, and perhaps gesturing broadly with no phone in evidence, we edge away from someone “gone mad and wandering amongst the crowd protected by his madness”… as the Envoy once said.

A Strange Psychological Occurrence

The alarm went off this morning about five-forty-five. I had been waking up for some time and simply lay in bed thinking about the scene in which the Envoy comes to Madam Irma’s house of illusions to persuade her to accept the role of Queen, to create the appearance that would crush the people’s rebellion. This was “my” scene, the major piece I contributed to the puzzle of “The Balcony.”

It’s not unusual for me to let my waking mind drift over yesterday’s work-a-day events. When it does my consciousness carries with it a sense of distance, the sense that, yes, that was what I did or said at work yesterday; but also a sense, or feeling, or tone that suggests I am now a third-person observer of remembered events “at work.”

This morning the impact of recollection was quite different. I was not simply remembering “that I did such and such, said such and such as an actor at work in Scene 7 of “The Balcony.” Rather I remembered visiting Madame Irma, remembered being there rather than simply looking back at the last day’s performance.

The sense of having been the Envoy was actually disorienting…a momentary sense that somehow a hole in being had opened up.
A dream? The result of having concentrated so much on the part? Who knows

I suspect that no actor could survive if he literally and completely became the character he was playing while he was on stage. Imagine what it would be like if, while you are reading this post at your computer screen, you turned around to find the fourth wall of your room had disappeared.

However much we try, metaphorically, to become the character we are playing it would be terrifying to find that suddenly we were.

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