One Last Look

I tried to starting gathering my thoughts about a week ago. Yet somehow I still find myself unable to verbalize everything I want to say about what these last few months have meant to me. For a while that bugged me and I kept putting it off in the hope that I would somehow discover the right words to say that would inevitably move you, my dear reader, to what I would like to think would be tears of the genuine sort, that stemmed from my well-fashioned realizations. But that’s not what I’ve come here to say.

In all seriousness, I am someone who is terrible with goodbyes. Absolutely dreaded military life but when the day came to turn in my uniform, I found myself scheming about how I could keep them and somehow deceive the armed forces bureau into believing that the articles of clothing had somehow become victim to unprovoked theft. Playing Aaron Kreifels to becoming Aaron Kreifels. Watching an event to discovering every unfolding instance of it. Words cannot do justice to the maturation of this play and to my maturation as a person – and to some extent, as an actor.

This was the first real production I had ever been in and my god if this is what every theater production is like – then god have mercy because I know the stage won’t. Coming to college this was never a class or an activity that I would have ever have imagined involving myself in. This was a complete matter of chance and I don’t think I have been more fortunate in a long time.

You know, when the final performance ended and we walked on stage and there was a standing ovation, I remember thinking, Wow. Not because I was in awe of our success or the response we got but instead, I felt an incredible feeling of ecstatic relief. We had a story to tell. This was a story that had to be told. And it was. Wow. Now what?

Laramie was a noun, a definition a sign. As we were taking down the set (the first time I had ever done that), I remember thinking, man, this is just heartless. I was clinging onto something that was, in a matter of minutes, going to be no more. That was when it hit me – what we had done was not in the stage or in the costumes or even in the performance. It was in us. It is now in the people who came to watch. Ephemeral as the stage was, it served its purpose. Like all things in life, this too came to pass. I had to suck it up and realize that it was what it was. An incredible experience that I appreciated and will always carry with me.

So with the final props taken down and the set completely undone, we proceeded to take our leave. I knew that I would be seeing everyone again that Wednesday. Still, once I made sure no one was looking, I turned around surreptitiously, and in the distance I could see the sparkling lights of Laramie, Wyoming.

Thank you for everything.


Ashok Palaniappan

2 thoughts on “One Last Look

  1. Ash–

    I love your language choices in this. “Every unfolding instance.” “Ecstatic relief.” “Heartless.” “Undone.” They signal, to me at least, a kind of maturity in your expression born out of experience over the course of the semester. And that’s really gratifying to see considering that there were moments, early on, where the other varied opportunities of Duke life : ) seemed to be taking more of your focus.

    I’m not sure if you’ll have another opportunity *exactly* like this one. In this production the actors never really had “down time”. You all didn’t sit backstage much, waiting to take the stage … it was yours at all times. Such a structure required your constant presence in a way that doesn’t often happen. It is a kind of attention that you would have to learn how to muster in a performance where you could disappear and reappear off to on-stage because you’ll need to be able to bring that presence at a moment’s notice. I think you’re on your way to developing a good set of acting tools to work in both kind of environments. I look forward to seeing your next performance steps.


  2. Ash,

    Thanks for this entry. I think you grew immeasurably during this process. You began to understand the discipline needed to make the strong contributions one needs to make in a collaborative art. It is not only about yourself, but about each and every “other” that is standing on stage beside you. I was very proud of your growth. I think wanting to be an actor and really understanding what it will take to be an actor are two very different things. I hope you continue to explore your talents and are willing to put the hard work into becoming stronger in everything you do. I am so glad you will taking Professor Beckwith’s class in the fall. She is the greatest and will give you an entirely new perspective on what theater can be.

    I knew at the audition when you read Aaron that you were the one to tell that piece of the story. It was a very important piece. It was the wake-up call at the end of Act One. All of a sudden we go from talking about Matthew alive for an entire act to understanding that the person we got to know in Act One, was no longer alive. That was your job! The way you worked with Bart in your Aaron monologue, charged the space with an electricity. Like the messenger in a Greek drama, you brought us back to the reality of what had happened. You revealed the horror and you raised the stakes. The audience knew that the story would be hard, not only for the characters, but for them as well.

    I hope the experience was good for you and that you will continue to define what you need to work on to be the best actor you can be.I look forward to continuing to be a part of that process.

    All best, Jeffrey

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