22 March 2007

Doing Lines is bad for Doing Lines

I myself, personally, have never tried cocaine. For many reasons, which are probably pretty obvious, but there are two that are personal to me. The first is that I don't like the idea of consuming--in any fashion--synthetic materials. I do; daily, of course, but some such materials we have more choice about than others. The second is that I can safely say the last thing I need in my life is more reason to be anxious or hyper kinetic. Thanks. Thanks, no. I'm all set.

The other night in rehearsal we got into a brief discussion about controlled substances, and one actor (I'm not naming names...or naming anything, for that matter) posited that one of the reasons he was beginning to have more trouble memorizing his lines was probably all the alcohol and marijuana he had consumed in his life. Another revealed that, as a result of his misspent youth and habit of ingesting cocaine, his teeth were shot to the point of mostly having fallen out--a bad thing for a performer . . . or, really, anyone. Finally, still a third member of our merry crew revealed another interesting, burdensome blight that one of her friends had to endure as a result of her years of cocaine usage.

The bridge of her nose collapsed.

{Tangent: Our final project for make-up class in college was to be handed a picture from a magazine and emulate the appearance of whomever was photographed. We had, I suppose, about an hour to do this. I got handed a close-up of Michael Jackson, taken from an angle looking up from rather under his chin. Along with being plastically pointy, his nose was missing the connecting bit between his upper lip and his nose proper (("proper" being a relative term in this case)). I did it, and I can't remember exactly how, but I do recall smelling black greasepaint for about two days afterward.}
However it happens, memorizing lines gets harder as one gets older. It's science. (<- movie quote) When you're young, you may be able to read something a couple of times and get it surprisingly perfect on recitation. As you age, the little things, the specifics, get harder and harder to store. (I take particular issue with variances: anybody/anyone; somebody/someone; North Dakota/South Dakota :why can't we just pick one and be done with it? Poetry? Bite me.) Like crossword puzzles, regularly committing material to memory is good for one's mental health. Unlike crossword puzzles, it doesn't get easier with age and experience. It gets harder. Similar to one's prostate. You have to work it regularly to keep it in good shape, but with every use, it's getting weaker.

I can understand why we don't have redundancy on our brains; that would just get confusing. But why not on our prostates? It could be like a Pez dispenser in our pelvis. Just keep a couple of spares below the diaphragm, and when ol' faithful wears out: Ker-chunk. Out with the old, in with the new.

But I digress. I am having particular difficulty with memorizing my Shepard. This is actually the first Shepard play I've ever done, and there are allowances to be made for adjusting to the poetry (Anybody? Anyone?) of an unfamiliar playwright. And age, or brain abuse (chemical and cultural) stand as neat excuses. But what I really believe the problem to be is this: I haven't had to get off-book for a new script in approximately a year. Word is bond.

Todd shares this in common with me, to some degree. For the past year, we've both been working our tails off in theatre, but never on projects with a script, per se. Everything is a workshop (script in process), semi-improvised (scenario instead of script) or movement theatre (um...dance? basically dance). I started the past year of theatre excitement with Zuppa del Giorno 's last original play, Operation Opera, which was semi-improvised and essentially written (and rewritten every performance) by the actors. Then it was off to Italy, where we worked on structured improv the entire time, culminating in Il Postina, in which the dialogue was not only semi-improvised, but in Italian. Thereafter, I did do a "straight play," Over the River and Through the Woods, but it was in its third incarnation and "memorizing" the lines consisted of reading the script a few times. Fall and spring, up to this point, were predominated by developing The Torture Project, which takes the concept of a work-in-progress to all new heights.

In fact, the last scripted play I did was Good, last March. Guess where that was? Same place A Lie of the Mind is going to be: ye olde Manhattane Theatre Source. Does it end the unscripted cycle of a year? Probably not. Most of the work I've invested in with any kind of long-term interest has been related to development and improvisation, in one respect or another. As in art, life. Or is it the other way around? Anyway, this past year has also definitively been the most unscripted of my personal life as well. I only hope I'm remembering enough as I go to be learning the whole time . . . maybe even learning more than the same three lessons over and over again. Still: They're good lessons. They must be. Otherwise, why would I remember them, right?

Now if only I could get that damn Eric Clapton song out of my head . . .


Anonymous said...

1.Clapton is God, if you should choose to remove his holy presence from your thoughts, be ever mindful of your soul.
2.Thanks to prostate comments of yours, I now must clean coffee off of a monitor, a keyboard, and my nose hairs.
C.His name is The Man in Black, and he is the answer to your music stuck in your head problem. Cocaine Blues, but I make no promises; it may/will stick in your head as well.

Jeff Wills said...

Thank you, Mr. Nancy, for your insight and explosive laughter. I;m serious about the prostate, though. One more argument against so-called intelligent design, as far as I'm concerned.