I love the theatre. That’s theatre with an “-re”. Pronounced with a British accent, like “thee-ah-tah”. I love the stage. I love that people get vulnerable enough to stand, live, in front of each other and share the ideas and feelings of some other vulnerable soul who chose to write them down. I love that we all get to be in the room together when it happens. I love when YOU are in the audience and I’m on the stage and you laugh at me and I suddenly want to work that much harder for you because I know you are paying attention.
I’ve done theatre since I was 10. I probably did close to 100 shows growing up. When I was younger, I did it because I loved it. Now I do it because I love it AND because every show teaches me something different. This time around I’ve narrowed the lessons down to two things:
1. I have way more time than I thought I did.
It happens every time I’m in a show. I start rehearsals 4 or 5 nights a week after Abraham goes to sleep and I can pretty much keep up with the rest of my life. Then about 2 weeks before the show opens, the pressure builds. Suddenly, day-to-day things like laundry and dishes are missed and lists pile up. I white-knuckle my way through those last dress rehearsals, just trying to hold it allllll together. The show opens and 4 nights a week for the next 3 weeks I focus and stay in character and give the show my very soul.
Then. The show closes. And it’s over.
And with that, my nights are free. I no longer have to remember pages upon pages of lines. I’m not going over stage directions in my head in the shower nor am I scrambling to get Abe into bed so I can make it to Starbucks before rehearsal so I don’t fall asleep back stage.
It’s all over.
We, in the theatre, often call it Show Flu. It’s that feeling of emptiness, of loss, when this group of people you now know SO well and worked with tirelessly all go back home and you have more time on your hands than you ever knew possible.
Except that it’s the same amount of time you had 2 months ago before rehearsals started. But it’s simply amazing how, even in the midst of all that chaos, I still managed to get everything (or enough) done to survive. That’s, quite simply, all I needed anyway. To survive.
I can stop freaking out about whether or not the laundry got separated properly or if the sparkling waters are on the “drink shelf” in the fridge because, well, we all survived and that’s all that has to happen even NOW that I have all that time back.
2. It’s so important to compliment each other.
Or, at the very least, acknowledge each other.
When I am on stage and the audience is just sitting there, silent, motionless, like an oil painting of tired people, I give up a little bit. I quit trying as hard.
But the quietest chuckle, the softest, “Woah”, those little tiny acknowledgements make me want to keep going. Because if you thought THAT was funny, let me show you this…
The same is true in my relationship, in my friendships, even in my interactions with the check-out guy at Publix. When I give them just the smallest acknowledgement, they care that much more about me. And it grows and grows and grows! I give you my best because of your acknowledgment, you get more amped about how hard I’m working and pat me on the back some more, and it goes on and on.
Take one night a few weeks ago as an example. I had rehearsal and Bear was staying home with Abe for me. All Bear had to do was read Abe a story and say goodnight, but I was just so grateful he was willing to take care of him for me so I could go. I made sure he had a proper dinner before I left, thanked him profusely, lots of kisses, and told him to leave the dishes alone as I would do them when I got home.
He did the dishes.
He felt so appreciated that it made him want to work harder for me.
And I felt SO good that I didn’t have to come home and do the dishes.
So whether you’re in the audience or just with someone you love, look for things to applaud. Chuckle at their jokes. Gasp during their stories. You don’t have to go overboard, but a little acknowledgement goes a long way.
Theatre, y’all. It’s teachin’ me all the time.
And if you happen to be in the Jacksonville area, Time Stands Still opens on January 16 at the San Marco Theatre. Call for tickets: (904) 396-4425