Friday, February 11, 2011

Sometimes it just is.

I've discovered I really don't like doing this play every night. Don't get me wrong, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just is. A close friend came to see the show last night and Angie and I had a conversation outside the theater with her afterwards. And as we were chatting I said as much. I hadn't actually said it out loud until then. Angie looked at me a little askew.

The reason, I finally realized, has nothing to do with the subject matter or the hopelessness inherent in the text or the difficulty in doing it. It has to do with the fact that there are parts (actually massive CHUNKS of the play) that are either right or wrong. That is to say, there is very little room to play. There is either the 'right way to do it' or 'the wrong way to do it.' That doesn't appeal to me.

One of the reasons I became an actor a hundred years ago is because success or achievement or goals or whatever has absolutely nothing to do with 'right' or 'wrong.' This business, this craft, is concerned only with what works or what doesn't work, not 'right' or 'wrong.'

For example, I was watching an old movie the other day. Gene Wilder was playing the lead role. A line was said, a line that probably no other actor on earth could've said 'funny.' Yet Wilder did. It wasn't a funny line, it probably wasn't even intended to be funny by the author. But Wilder, in his inimitable fashion, said the line in such a way that made me chuckle out loud. You see? There was no right or wrong, there was only Wilder's choice. That's a very small example but it's precisely what I'm talking about.

Try to imagine doing 'Hamlet' and after the show someone walks up to you and says, "Sorry, but you did the role wrong tonight. Try harder tomorrow night." You see? There IS no 'wrong' way to do Hamlet. Or hardly any other role for that matter. And that is exactly the beauty of it, the appeal, the excitement, that 'unknown variable.' But, as much as I don't like it, there IS a wrong way to do this role. And again, it just is. No one's fault, no one is the cause of this...except maybe the composer, but that's hardly to be considered a drawback. The music is every bit as genius as I first thought it to be.

In this play, Adding Machine - The Musical, there is so much of it that is complex rhythm and exact counting. It is necessary because other things can't happen next unless it happens exactly right at that moment. I know that's a bit nebulous, but that's the long and short of it. It's like going on stage every night and doing trigonometry. This is, obviously, by design, hence the title of the play. But I don't like it. I don't like not being able to play INSIDE the text.

I suppose it comes from a deep-seated hatred of people telling me there is only one way to do something. So I naturally, given my pre-disposition and distrust of authority in general, gravitated toward this business. I've spent a career, I'd like to think anyway, approaching roles from a different viewpoint, a new way of thinking about something, an eccentric thought process. Maybe I've been kidding myself, but I like to think so, anyway.

There is room to do that in this play, to be sure. Not a lot, but some. But not nearly enough to give me enjoyment over the evening. Our friend said last night, "Well, it's no wonder you're not having a lot of fun. It's a very depressing theme." Honestly, that has nothing to do with it. It has to do entirely with the practical application of what I do. Not the text, not the subject matter, not even the music, really, but the inability to 'play.' I hate actually 'working' when I go to work.

Now, the audience is none the wiser. So, with that in mind, it really doesn't, in the final analysis, matter how I feel. This is entirely my own thought process. It's not about me, never has been. This is one of the reasons I've always disdained 'Method' work. It's not about the actor. It's all, entirely, every bit, always and forever, about the audience. It's about the $45 they shelled out for that seat. To ever, even for a moment, think otherwise is the absolute height of self-indulgence. It's the closest thing to a crime that an actor can commit, as far as I'm concerned. So many actors actually think it's about them. It astonishes me.

So I guess what I'm saying is, it's best to at least acknowledge that I'm not having any fun doing this. Rather than simply walk around in a sort of morass all the time about having to do it again, simply acknowledge what and why it effects me in such a way. And I think that goes a long way to at least accepting the work and the personal effort on a nightly basis.

Sometimes I feel like I'm going out on the boards every night to compete in a spelling bee rather than interpreting a role. It just is. This is one of those rare occasions when one just has to suck it up and do what is necessary. I may not enjoy it, but I sure as hell appreciate it.

See you tomorrow.

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