Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Those are probably the most cherished words any actor will ever speak.

Getting a role is pure bliss for the ego--a validation of all the work, training, courage and passion that everyone who dares to get on a stage possesses . It's the best part of being an actor, getting a job. It's probably a more joyful occasion than actually performing.

You Like Me. You REALLY Like Me! (you DO, don't you?)

Once the euphoria wears off though (and it's ALWAYS a short-lived joy), it's replaced by a nervousness and nagging fear. Sure, you think, I did a good job in the audition. But what if I can't really play the role? Now I have to perform. They must have seen 20 other actors for this role--why did they pick ME? It's kind of like a battered wife syndrome--you've been rejected so many times that you start thinking that maybe I'm not really that good, and even when someone DOES like you, you sort of think, well, maybe they couldn't find anyone better or "what's wrong with this person that likes me?"

Yeah, actors are a little crazy and insecure. Like I said, spend your time in constant cycles of yearning and rejection sometime and see what it does to YOU. Most people are smart enough to ever subject themselves to that type of abuse.

As the day of the first rehearsal draws near, the nervousness magnifies, but excitement and eagerness creep in too. You're going to get to PLAY! You're getting to do the thing you LOVE to do more than anything else in the world. And make no doubt about it, if you're an actor, there is no place you'd rather be than on a stage, and no lover will ever capture your heart like performing will.

And the day you stop feeling that way is the day that you stop acting.

You may eventually find something resembling balance in your life, but acting will still dominate. Actors often miss weddings, funerals, birthday parties, anniversaries and other special occasions because of rehearsals or performances. You've heard the phrase "the show must go on", and the show doesn't care that it's your wedding anniversary, your mom is sick in the hospital or that your brother is graduating from high school--there is an audience that needs to be satisfied and people have paid money to see you perform.

Very few jobs require the total dedication that the theater does--she is a very demanding, cruel mistress.

Ring, Ring...

In recent years, I've taken leave of this mistress in exchange for a little bit of stability and the pleasure that comes with regular paychecks. And I work with people who appreciate me and they don't make me interview for my job every day. (of course, they work me like the rented mule that I am, but that's okay--at least I'm working!) I'm not the kind of person to look back, but every now and then, that cruel mistress tugs at my heartstrings.

She's the crazy girlfriend who is so totally bad for you, but being with her is the most incredibly amazing INTENSE time that you keep seeing her even though you KNOW she is going wreak havoc in your life.

So imagine my surprise when one week ago, I get a call out of the blue from my director friend Marie who says "how'd you like to play a role for me?"

I'm Just A Boy Who Can't Say No

Being a typical actor, the first word out of my mouth was "sure". I didn't even think about slipped out before I had a chance to take it back. It's a habitual response, and you'll know your around people who have acted before if whenever you ask them something the answer is ALWAYS "yes".

"Hey, have you ever ridden a horse before?" Yes. "Can you stand on your head?" Yes. "Can you play castanets and dance flamenco?" Yes. "Can we set you on fire?" Yes.

(by the way, I have actually been asked all of those questions before in the casting process. And eventually did all of them in performance, even though a more accurate answer at the time would have been "no")

Actors are superhuman--we think we can do anything any human can do, and if we haven't done it before, then we're sure that we can learn it quickly enough to look like we've been doing it for years by opening night. You never know what is going to get you a role...or keep you from getting a role, so you just say "yes" to everything.

So when Marie asked me to play a role for her, I said "yes" before even thinking to ask the more logical question--what's the role?

Even a Cruel Mistress Has a Sense of Humor

Which is how I now find myself playing Joseph of Aramethia in play titled "The Case of Humanity vs. Pontius Pilate".

That would be SAINT Joseph of Arimithea. The man who gets Jesus from the cross and buries him in his finest linens in a burial plot meant for himself. The Joseph who eventually builds the first Christian church in England and brings the Holy Grail along with him.

One has to appreciate the irony and the implied humor (the joke is on me)--we've got an avowed athiest playing a venerated Catholic saint...a man of supreme faith. But hey, I got the part!!

This is gonna be interesting, to say the least. I'll pour myself into the role and it poses some challenges to me, which is something I like in a role. I like to be stretched--I like to learn about myself and discover new feelings, emotions, thoughts. I often use the theater to become more enlightened.

I don't know how I will fare in the role, and it's too early to worry about that. All I can do is go about my process for developing role and seek the truth of the character. Maybe I'll find it...and maybe I won't.

All I'm certain of is that come performance time, either me or the audience is going to be surprised by what happens. But for now...all that matters is...I GOT THE PART!

Next up: What do I do now? (first rehearsals)

Add to Technorati Favorites


Anonymous said...

I don't write as succinctly as you, so I'll shorten my reaction: WOOHOO!:) Wish I lived by you to see the play and talk with you about your discoveries about J of A!:) BTW, it's Dawn...couldn't remember my Google account login stuff:)

Mark said...

Thanks, Dawn!