it’s not glamourous

Here’s what I haven’t mentioned about Polaroid Stories yet: the set.

The set is a very large chain link fence that divides the playing area in half. Along the back of the set are three large ramps that go from low to high across the wall. They are about three to five feet in the air depending on which part of the incline you are looking at. Behind the audience on one side is a four and a half foot wall that you can climb up to run to the platform which is another four feet in the air. Have I mentioned I’m five foot two? At one point I have to jump off one platform, run around the fence over to the side of the audience with the wall, jump up the wall, run over to the platform, jump onto the platform (but keep my head down because I’d hit the ceiling) and then squat until I can break into a run along the entire wall of elevated three-foot wide platforms.

If the fall won’t kill me, these bruises will. And my arms are killing me from pulling myself up on these things. We haven’t gotten the light plot yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be blinded by a spotlight at one point when I’m supposed to be running, and it will be at that point that I know I will run in a full-sprint off the platform and fall face-first into the chain link fence.

I’ve said it here first, so you know it will be the truth.

I’m also wearing combat boots in this show, and I haven’t worn boots like these in a very long time. Well, to be honest, when I wore combat boots they were Doc Martins– they were real combat boots. Due to the show’s budget and the fact that these boots had to be practically destroyed to look authentic, I’m wearing combat boots made by Esprit (don’t tell anyone!). They were not made for people to really wear. They were not made for moshing or jumping or running.

I have blisters and callouses on my feet that I can’t believe. The arches of my feet hurt. My toes are shriveling up just thinking about putting those boots on again tonight.

Seriously, though, this play stinks. Not figuratively, but literally. We stink. Collectively. We get all dressed and then jump around and run on these platforms and slam against this chain link fence and dance and laugh and scream and say lines and fifteen minutes into the show we are completely drenched in sweat. We smell bad. The costume designer is very happy with this fact, as it gives more authenticity to our street kid characters. I, however, am mortified at the thought that there’s a possibility that after I deliver my three-page heart-felt monologue and lean my head back to cry, I could potentially hear someone in the audience (because the audience is very close to the set) whisper to a friend, “She certainly stinks, doesn’t she?”

I’m also in the situation where I’m not in the entire play. This is the coolest thing in the world during the early rehearsal process. “What are you guys working tomorrow? Oh. I’m not in those pages. I guess I don’t have to come tomorrow.” In the final week, however, it’s terrible. “What are you guys working on now? Oh. I’m not in that. When will you get to the scene where I’m asleep? In two hours? Oh. I’ll be out here.” It’s a big waiting game. We were all happy to get into the real set and play around on everything. That’s the most exciting part, really, right before the show opens. Finding out if it really looked like what you thought it was going to look like.

I think this is going to be good. If I don’t trip and die on the fence.

Don’t let anyone tell you that an actor’s life is glamorous. It isn’t. It’s very messy and sweaty and you work really long hours and if you’re lucky you like the people that you are spending every night of your life with. There’s always the chance that one of the people you end up with makes your eyes bleed every time you hear his or her voice. There’s always the chance that you’ll fall in love on the set (like Eric and I did) and then you’re in for a whole other mess of problems in deciding if you want the rest of the cast to know that you two are leaving the rehearsal at staggered times and then meeting at his car to dash back to his apartment and stay up all night long. There’s always the chance that after a rehearsal you spend all night talking to your cast drinking and smoking and laughing. There’s always the chance that one night you’ll give one of your best performances ever– and the perfect person was in the audience. There’s always the chance that someone will ask for your autograph, or recognize you when you go to the gas station. Someone will say, “Hey, I saw you in (insert show). You were really good. My friends and I still talk about that show.” There’s always the chance that you’ll work yourself harder than you ever thought you would, and when it’s all over you’ll realize that you are now a better performer or writer or director and the whole process was worth it. I’m making it sound glamorous. I can’t help it. I have to. It’s because I love it. I love the whole thing. I even love the parts I hate.

You have to deal with people who don’t see things the way you do. You have an image in your head (in the business we call this a “vision”). The end result is never what you had in mind. This is because you work with other people and they influence your final project. This can be brilliant. This can be horrible. You have to learn how to deal with others, how to talk to others. You have to learn how to trust yourself, how to trust others as much as you trust yourself. You have to be willing to work. You have to be willing to wait. You have to do a lot of waiting. You wait until rehearsal. You wait until your scene in rehearsal. You wait to get costumes. You wait to get a set. You wait for lights. You wait for tech rehearsal. You wait for opening night. You wait for the audience to fill the house. You wait for that first pre-show light to go out. You wait for your first scene. You wait for your first line. You wait for your first monologue. You wait for your first blackout. You wait for your first curtain call. And when you wash off your makeup when it’s all over– then you know. You can stop waiting. You’re a working actor and you know what you’re going to be doing for the next four weeks. Every night you will come into that theatre and you’ll put on your costume and you’ll do it again.

And then, when it’s over, you’ll wait for your next chance to do it again.

It’s smelly. It’s hard. It’s full of drama queens and prima donnas and brilliantly talented people that the rest of the world may never see. It’s unlike anything else in this world.

And I never want to give it up.


My, oh, my. Speaking of actors and gushing and stuff: You like me. You really like me. Thanks so much, guys.

They don’t have an award for me yet to display, so I thought I’d just copy the description down, for those of you unfamiliar with the diarist awards:

Best Writing

Recognizes consistent, quality writing, in any style or flavor, including train-of-thought, editorial, ‘personal narrative,’ dialogue and lists. Good writing from piece to piece is a greater concern than frequency of entries, but both are considerations. This award highlights authors who have a distinct, recognizable and versatile voice, able to grab the reader and clearly convey a mood, message or thought, and is independent of design.

Winners in my book:

Nothing By God James Valvis
Kalamazoo Days Rob Rummel-Hudson
Bad Hair Days Xeney
Ellipses Ms. E.
Hedgehog Tales Mighty Kymm
la malinchista
plaintive wail stee
sunshine, mud and rainbows Dave Van
same as a picture Matt Sturges (I hope he’s kidding about quitting)
man about murfreesboro Mike Reed

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