Something that surprised me over the course of my time onstage for Ragtime was how my character morphed during each performance. During rehearsals, and in my previous blog entry, I intentionally made my character a fierce Asian woman. She spent a lot of time frowning sternly, and she was money/success-driven. However, I found that persona waning as a set characterization. I came into the different shows with different moods, and so sometimes I (and my character) was more tired, sometimes more lost, hurt and confused, sometimes still defiant. I wonder if these different characterizations made for a different perception of my character’s age? I don’t know that the audience would necessarily have noticed the differences between my characterizations in different shows, but I definitely felt it.
It was great to have an audience to laugh at the funny moments and coo at the touching ones. I felt that it reminded us all that we did have a show worth seeing, that it was still entertaining and engaging. It was strange to accidentally catch sight of people I knew in the audience; I always felt like it detracted from my ability to suspend my own belief. Instead of being fully immersed in the world of my character, I was jolted back to the awkward reality that I was performing on a stage. I felt a little ridiculous, self-conscious about my costume, my gestures and my facial expressions, and generally over-the-top. Because of that, I actually tried to hide from my friends when I spotted them in the audience (causing some awkward moments where I didn’t make it to my chair in Somewhere in the City, etc). That is probably not the optimal effect for an audience on a cast member…haha.
To continue the race conversation, I remember the talkback with Manny Azenberg and the conversation that happened in the dressing room afterward were both interesting. I appreciated Manny’s insight that in theatre sometimes we must be colorblind, and other times we cannot be. It leads me to think (and I think I have had a bit of discourse with Jules about this) about whether what we need is more Asian American theatre, or more explicitly Asian American roles in theatre? OR is it for Asian Americans to be included in the cultural consciousness so that it doesn’t stand out that some character is an Asian? Then, Asians (and African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Middle Eastern people, etc) can just be people, instead of the unconscious assumption that most theatre-going people have now that an unspecified character is white. I remember (I believe it was) Dominique saying that black people have been so vocal about racial discrimination, but Asians are so oppressed and no one is complaining. I remember Elena and me responding that that is because of how un-outspoken Asians are. It’s true, but I think the next generation is turning out to be different.
Also, I sincerely hope- for myself, and for the rest of the cast- that we will continue thinking, talking, engaging and displacing ourselves into communities where we are the minority, or we have to consider issues of race and ethnicity. I hope we don’t become strangers.
Shop time: I think I spent about half an hour in the costume shop once when I was supposed to be waiting for my rehearsal skirt to be hemmed, and helped sort out those chrome hangers that got so tangled because of the notches in the shoulders. I also worked in the costume shop during strike. I actually felt a little like I was working in a factory, a nice throwback to the loom scene with Kathryn haha- but anyway, we were cataloging the clothes people had put back on racks, accounting for everything, taking out skirt hems, and sorting through the clothes and organizing them into wash or dry-clean boxes. At the end of the time we loaded everything into Kay’s car autumn leaf-pile style. At one point Kay got frustrated with me because I threw away a few name tags that I thought wouldn’t be going with the clothes when they were actually supposed to. But we remedied that situation, and I think things ended up okay since I did pretty well with the skirt hems and everything else, and I got there early on during strike and was ready to help. The costume shop is amazingly hectic- there is so much work that goes on in there! I’m glad we got to make shop life easier by helping out during strike. I can’t imagine all that work getting done as efficiently with fewer hands on deck.