07 April 2007

Omega, meet Alpha


Over the past week I've had a couple of difficult bits of news concerning my artistic endeavors. The first was that, indeed, we did not achieve enough enrollment in In Bocca al Lupo to make the trip happen. That was the sort of news one receives with little surprise, though it still saddens and disappoints. In many ways, I was counting on going back to Italy this year, as an actor, teacher and just me. That was my fault, but . . . COME ON! WE'RE TALKING ITALY, HERE!

In other difficult news, one of the outcomes of Thursday's update meeting for The Torture Project was that . . . well . . . I'm maybe probably not performing in the show. And the reason? The character should be nineteen years old. And I, believe it or no, do not look nineteen. (Having that fact confirmed is, in some ways, a relief. I'm ready to play men these days.) There was a lot more to that meeting, the which I will address anon, but just that part was the difficult bit.

Meanwhile, A Lie of the Mind continues to receive a very positive reception, and I feel better and better about the work I'm doing in it. Last night Friends Patrick and Melissa (1/2 of The Exploding Yurts) were there, and we had some discussion of the merits and foibles of Sam Shepard's plays. It was nerve-wracking to perform for my colleagues, but I should have known better. They were the best audience members that night, laughing unabashedly when they found something funny instead of pausing to wonder, "Oh my--should I be laughing at this?"

So what does an actor do when work falls through, or a project hangs in precarious balance for him or her? I don't know what other actors do, but I've always found it helpful to curl up in the corner of my closet, sucking my thumb and squeezing my eyes shut until I can see purple and orange explosions behind my eyelids.

I'm sure I'm not alone.

In all seriousness though (a first for this 'blog), it can be really rough to lose work when all you really want to do is work, and it often feels as though such moments of loss pile up on a guy. "When sorrows come, they come not in single spies, but in battalions." Word, Hamlet. Word. This kind of situation can also be inspiration for a fellow to throw in the towel on the whole thing. I mean, nobody's clamoring for your work, for your presence on the stage, and now it feels as though not only are they not shouting your name, they're actively discouraging your aspiration. I would be lying if I said these moments don't have me contemplating a life of nine-to-five employment, in which I have the money to support the little entertainments easily found and purchased in most of the shopping malls of this great nation. I mean, that actually sounds really nice to me sometimes, no foolin'. An uncomplicated life, which I am somewhat more in control of, and that no one will outwardly question. Just leave me alone. I'm normal.

Whatever normal is, I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't consider repeated crying jags in public places to be it. (Which may simply be an indication of how screwed up people's perception of "normal" is.) Those of you who've seen the show already, or have been reading recent entries here, know that in the eleventh hour (being really honest, more like one A.M.) I had a breakthrough regarding the last moment of the thing. Since then, and thanks in ginormous part to fellow actors Todd d'Amour and Laura Schwenninger, I have consistently achieved that emotional sincerity necessary for my character's final moment on stage. Last night I even got it to the point of strength and relaxation that I could afford to really try to fight through the tears to say what needed to be said, which is what the moment should truly be.

But a switch was flipped, in some ways, and the damn thing was stuck last night. On my way home, I kept weeping unexpectedly. It was really pretty comic, with a little distance. (My fellow passengers on the grand ol' Metropolitan Transit Authority must have thought that it was a really sad crossword puzzle I was solving.) Maybe it was a simple case of sort of programming a "crying trigger," (in the show I have to make sure I don't breathe too rapidly, in order to let the emotion happen) and not having a handle on letting go of it yet. Maybe I've tapped some well of emotion I've had a plug on for some time now (that's a nasty habit of mine I'll own right up to). Maybe it really WAS an emotional crossword puzzle. I mean, Maura Jacobson knows her stuff, I'm telling you.

The point is not to wonder at the why of my behavior. Rather, I find value in an earnest acknowledgment of the behavior--neither judging it nor letting it go unnoticed--and moving through it. Whether I was sad for Frankie, Jake, myself, the ending of hopes and beginning of dreams, or for a five-letter word that means "narrowly prevent," I was experiencing grief. Grief's important. I'm not going to go seeking grief (apart from when a script calls for it) but it's there for a reason, and avoiding it is really only saying, "Grief, yeah. I remember you, but look, I uh, I'll have to catch up with you later, 'cause, I got some things . . . to do . . . . LOOK! A SEAGULL!"

[sound of hurried footsteps rushing away]

You'll meet grief again. He's there to help, ultimately. No sense in delaying it, much less ignoring it indefinitely. Every ending is a beginning of something new, and grief is part of how we get from A to B. And "B" is always a good place to be.

PS - This is how the alphabet would look without Q & R.

PPS - Avert.

4 comments:

Le Synge Bleu said...

grief is above all else a gift, even if it does feel more like a shitstorm.

Jeff Wills said...

Oui!

Lea Maria said...

...but in your grief you must recognize that neither happenings of loss in art had anything to do in your own artistic merit. So grieve for a bit, but don't doubt who or what you are, or the choices you have made for your life. And now your summer has openned up for something else.

I would tell you these things in person, but alas I fear we shall never meet again. Damn the TP!

Jeff Wills said...

Hey now. I had a moment there of moderating the hell out of this, Lea. Slander the TP, will you? That's a capital offense in some nation-states.

Then again, you make an extremely valid point. So it is postinated. Thank you. As for never meeting again, I wouldn't count on that. Great talents such as our own(s) can never long avoid collaboration.