I write this in an exhausted, feverish, overly sentimental frenzy. I am very sick today. I spent all of last night throwing up, and I woke up this morning after a restless sleep to do more of the same. I sent Jeff a frantic text message at 8:30 am — “Jeff, I hate to say this, but I don’t think I should come to rehearsal today. So, so, so sorry.”
I spent the next six hours dozing off and on, dreaming about Laramie. I’d like to say that this was simply some fever-induced phenomenon, but that wouldn’t be true.
The thing is, this play has infiltrated my thoughts and my life this semester. There’s the simple matter of time, for one — “I can’t, I have rehearsal” has become my mantra of the past few months. But it’s much, much more than that. I find myself quoting lines from the show with regularity. I light up when I see fellow cast-members out and about around campus. Julian and I were joking about how the beginning of the semester, when I only knew him as our soundboard operator in Proof, seems like eons ago. We’ve come a long way.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve had my doubts. During that two-week stretch where it seemed like all we were doing was staging an intricate dance of changing costumes and moving chairs, I worried that this was going to end up being a show with a great visual concept, but little overall impact. Why were we focusing so little on the acting? Why did this complex staging have to take priority? This is not to say that I doubted the expertise and strategy of Jeff and Jules, but I worried about how the disparate moments and scene changes were going to fit together. I doubted my ability to make the words of the play seem natural or connected to a larger story, especially when so much of the way characters spoke often seemed stilted or overly presentational, at least to the eye upon the page. I worried that we would lose our audience, that the show would drag on for hours, that the third act would seem overly sentimental or forced. I frequently thought about these concerns at night or in the shower, as I went over Reggie Fluty’s speeches or Sherry Johnson’s monologue.
I should add that this litany of self-doubt and insecurity about the final outcome of a performance is nothing new for me. I have yet to be in a show where a week or two before opening, my answer to the question, “How’s the play coming?” hasn’t been full of trepidation and complaints.
That being said, within the last week, I have watched this show come to life. I finally had the opportunity to have an individual rehearsal session with Jeff, and we worked at length on my scenes with Afftene. I finally have a sense of the mother-daughter relationship between Reggie and Marge, and I feel so much more natural and comfortable now that I know that regardless of when our respective interviews may have been conducted, Reggie and Marge can engage in a dialogue, listening and reacting to what the other has to say. I feel extremely grateful that in a show where dialogue and interplay between characters is hard to come by, I have not one, but two, scenes in which to play off of another actor. I was pleased and excited that during Thursday’s run when Afftene and I did our Act 3 scene between Marge and Reggie, for the first time directly responding to one another and letting the humor and excitement of the scene shine through post-work with Jeff, the rest of the cast laughed heartily in response to the changes we had made. I kept looking over at Cameron’s parents to gauge their reactions, and I was similarly pleased to see them smiling and laughing and emoting and responding throughout the show.
I can’t wait for us to have an audience. I am proud of the work we have done. And the newly installed lights completely change the theater and make the space magical. We are ready for opening night. I just need to get well first!