Full disclosure: I’m dwelling. I know I’m dwelling, but I’m the type of person that needs to have something to dwell on during a show, or the overwhelming stage fright I combat will kick in and then, really, you just don’t want to be around me.
And right now, the dwelling flavor of the day is “crying on stage”.
I don’t know what it is. In private, I will cry over the dumbest things. Jake once found me weeping on the floor during an episode of Doctor Who and didn’t blink (ha). But for some reason, I am having absolutely immense difficulty getting tears flowing for this show.
It wouldn’t be a big deal, but let’s take a look at the tape:
This is my first line in the show:
LAVINIA: In peace and honor live Lord Titus long;
My noble lord and father, live in fame.
Lo, at this tomb my tributary tears
I render for my brethren’s obsequies,
And at thy feet I kneel, with tears of joy
Shed on the earth for thy return to Rome.
O, bless me here with thy victorious hand,
Whose fortunes Rome’s best citizens applaud.
Two mentions of tears right out of the shoot.
But wait, there’s more.
During Act 2 Scene 3, (the “rape” scene), Demetrius says:
Listen, fair madam: let it be your glory
To see her tears; but be your heart to them
As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.
So, textually, there’s tears there.
And then there’s the big one. After I return to Rome with Marcia, she brings me to Titus and he finds out what’s happened. Upon the reveal, Titus says:
Now I behold thy lively body so?
Thou hast no hands, to wipe away thy tears
Nor tongue, to tell me who hath martyred thee.
Over the course of the scene, he tells me that Bassianus is dead and my two brothers have been arrested for it. And Titus says…
Look, Marcia! ah, son Lucius, look on her!
When I did name her brothers, then fresh tears
Stood on her cheeks, as doth the honey-dew
Upon a gather’d lily almost wither’d.
It is just such a frustrating experience to WANT to cry and knowing that textually, it’s such an important part of the story, so important that Shakespeare wrote all of those references into the show, but having this strange mental block about the whole thing is just awful. It’s there, in the text. Lavinia cries– a lot. Last night I spent a great deal of time watching stupid videos on Youtube trying to figure out both what the hell I could do about the situation, which is just pathetic, I think.
At dinner last night, it kind of became a joke as I sat at Village Inn trying to cry at the table, and my friend Andy pointed out that “maybe you shouldn’t worry about using tricks to cry, just focus on the emotion and the tears will come”. That was immensely frustrating– I am so deep into this part I realized that I’ve started dressing like her. I have done mountains and mountains of research and work. I have looked at every single line of text in the show and squeezed every drop of information from it. I know who Lavinia is, I know how I want to play her, every night I live through her pain and sorrow and shame and it’s awful. I leave rehearsal in a foul and terrible mood because I feel it so strongly– and I still can’t cry.
Hell, I’m tearing up right now at the frustration I’m feeling about not being able to cry.
Letting go and not worrying about it has to be the key. There comes a point where the overthinking just makes things worse, but I am so invested in this– I don’t want to suck. I want people to feel what I’m feeling, to experience something visceral and real because of what I’m doing, to be moved and to have an amazing emotional experience– because I think that’s what is so amazing about theatre– you have the opportunity to genuinely affect people and I think Lavinia is such a great vessel for that.
There is a part of me, too, that simply has something to prove. For my entire life, I have wanted to be an actor. I started out interested in musical theatre, but fate and vocal talent conspired to make me less than an ideal candidate for that type of work. Over time, I absoultely fell in love with Shakespeare, and that’s what I would like my focus to be on. However, I know that I am not the world’s greatest actor, and when I decided to be a theatre major, I went into it believing that the experience would be a magical actor’s studio type of thing that forced me to improve lest I be left behind. While I loved my time in school and I did grow both as an artist and an individual, it was noticed early on that I am a good writer, director and designer– and those were areas I was encouraged to explore, and I did very well in them– but even as I was designing costumes or building sets, I wanted to be acting, and that always seemed to be an after-thought to everything else. There was a moment when I was sharing my plans for after college with someone, and when I said that I really wanted to go to grad school for acting, there was a pause and then “You’re such a good writer– have you thought about going to school for that?” . I was devestated. Keep in mind that this was after four and a half years of working towards my major– was this the first time I was going to be told that I wasn’t talented enough to be an actor?
I am full of self-doubt, and I think that’s okay. Any actor who goes into an audition expecting to be cast is probably not someone I’d want to work with, but so much of me wants to succeed in this role, to prove that this is something I CAN do and I CAN be good at it, I think it’s all combining into one giant neuroses-inducing clusterfuck that is impeding my process.
Tonight we’re working on the scene where Lavinia is able to disclose who raped and mutilated her– and I’m making it my personal goal not to worry about whether or not my eyes are tearing up, but focusing on the experience and seeing what happens.