Bertha's List: February Edition
I love actors.
I love that we spend half our time on stage and the other half trying to get back on it. I love that we’re drawn to the kind of work that terrifies us. I love that we choose to embody characters that challenge us and are comfortable with the possibility of making complete fools of ourselves in the process. I love that we can have drawn out debates over method and technique for hours on end. I love those actors who steep themselves in “Method” and those who rebel against it. I love the actor’s terminology what with all their actions, beats, and objectives. I love the inferred reverence in the word “Craft” and how it implies a discipline that once understood grants entrance into a very exclusive group. I love rehearsals that leave you a complete wreck: you feel like a phony, a fake, a pretender. I love the magical moments when the room goes eerily still and all that remains is your scene partner. I love when a moment works, it clicks, it soars. I spent my Valentine month head-over-heels in love.
A woman at one of my Buddhism study meetings once said that if you feel like your life hasn’t changed just take one look where you were five years ago. Well, I didn’t need to go that far to see change. A simple look at last year’s February showed me growth on a personal level. I’d exorcised some inner demons to make room for the person I wanted to be in the future. I made peace with the relationships of my past and the closure allowed me to accept their love as well as their lessons. One morning, as I strutted down 42nd Street, headphones blasting something cheerful and Pop-ish, I was momentarily blinded by the beauty of the city and I thought “This is it.” I was a working actor living in the city of my dreams walking to my first Off-Broadway dress rehearsal. I was living the life I’d imagined.
Of course, I’m painting for you only the rose-colored version of the story. I’m omitting all the sacrifices, both big and small, that have led to this point not because they don’t matter but a warrior who boasts to the world of their struggles bears too onerous an armor to fight deftly. Like the genius Karl Lagerfeld says “Please don't say I work hard. Nobody is forced to do this job… If it's too much, do something else... Suddenly, they become artists. They are too weak. Too fragile. Non. We have to be tough. We cannot talk about our suffering. People buy dresses to be happy, not to hear about somebody who suffered over a piece of taffeta. Me, I like to make an effort. I like nothing better than concrete reality…but it is my job to make that earth more pleasant.” Or in the more concise words of a lesser-known genius, Mr. Phillip M. Church “Great actors make it look easy, light, soufflé-light.” I see this part as the third act of the magic trick, The Prestige; to make it look easy, light.
It may be because I find it so discouraging when someone talks of how hard it is to make it in this business that I find the thought limiting, uninspiring, and worthless. Given that if you look up the word “easy” in the dictionary you certainly won’t find “surviving in a high-cost living city” or “tax season for the self-employed” as its definition. Then again neither will you find “being alive” because hey, guess what, as long as you are there will always be obstacles. What you might find, however, are people willing to help you. Your cast-mate will take you out for hot chocolate and strudel with a side of guidance. The playwright will mask your insecurities with their poetic words. Your director will reassure you of his original casting choice and mend your broken ego. Your stage manager will make sure you hit your mark and help you find your lost head. So yes, it isn’t “easy” but nothing worth achieving ever is. At the end of the day once that curtain goes up and you’re crushed under waves of applause who remembers your school of hard knocks graduation, anyway? For in this moment you are infinite. Strangers tell you you’re marvelous and in your margarita-stupor you believe them. You are surrounded by your friends, some of which flew thousands of miles to celebrate your Opening Night, and you dance till your tired boogie shoes cry out for a taxi home. The word “struggle” is the foreign language you have forgotten and don’t wish to re-learn.
Usually my newsletters are about a crisis averted and while that may make for a more interesting read it doesn’t always make for a happy writer. So I’m glad this month I get to share with you my unbridled joy in having achieved one of my long-time goals. I know this phase won’t last forever. I know that after every high there is a low. This does not make me a pessimist, this makes me an actor; so I also know that the story is not finished yet and I have always believed in happy endings. That’s another thing I love about actors: “we are the dreamers of dreams… of the world for ever, it seems.”