The First Weekend.

So the first weekend is finally past, and I must admit that I am incredibly impressed with the consistent level of awesome being put on stage. Not only did we get through four shows in a row, but the matinee was one of our best performances. It’s really great being in a cast that is willing to work–HARD– through bruises, bumps and sleep deprivation to put on such a great show.

Not only that, but we are still continuing to make discoveries and new choices on stage, and for me, that is one of the coolest things about working with this company. It doesn’t matter if there is a sold-out house or just the director giving notes, there is always the option to play and try new things. It is really easy for me to slip into “line readings”, but I’ve never had that problem with this show because the entire cast is committed to making things better every night.

On Sunday, Aaron and I shared a really cool moment on stage– we made nearly the same discovery from our different view points (at the same exact time) in the middle of a scene that I have been working to make more interesting, and I think that our mutual decision in the moment really added to the scene. It also gave us a lot more to play with, and knowing that I could trust everyone else in the scene to roll with our new choice is a really amazing thing for an actor to experience.

I had a night of odd thoughts on stage. Lavinia is a role that requires a lot of commitment in the moment, but sometimes the odd “catie” thought slips by, and last night, during that same scene, I had this sudden thought of “I’m so glad I get to do this”. Backstage, we’ve played “switch the actor”, but I really can’t imagine the show being cast any other way. I love this character and I keep discovering more and more things about her every night, which has been really exciting.

It’s sort of a mental challenge—there is a moment when Chiron and Demetrius throw me back onstage after taking me off and doing terrible things to me, and invariably, about half of the crowd gets to see my underwear. If we’re being honest, by the end, everyone has seen my underwear, but it’s that first “now people can see my ass” that always gets to me.

There is always a sudden moment of “shit, what if I have a wedgie” that happens right before I go on stage, but the sudden-ness of that moment, being thrown down like that and being so exposed and my absolute inability to do anything about it, even as an actor, is something that has been really interesting to get to play with every night. I have seen people look away, shift uncomfortably, blush, giggle—the varied reactions to intense scenes of emotion is really fascinating to watch from the stage.

Every night, reactions are different. There was a beautiful moment on opening night after the entire show had ended and the lights were going down so we could exit, someone just said “wow” from the darkness. I love that.

There have been a few times when I thought that some audience members were going to get up and try to save me themselves. Others look so disinterested in the show as a whole that I want to stop the show and ask them if they have somewhere else that they would rather be.  The hardest thing for me is watching people cry. I have a natural inclination to want to offer help to anyone I see crying, and knowing that I’m partly the reason they’re crying makes me feel guilty but deliciously successful at the same time.

And then, on Sunday, we had a problem that we hadn’t experienced before—someone brought a kid. This is problematic in its own right (please, parents, do research before you bring an 8 year old to Titus Andronicus) but the kid also decided that he needed to use the bathroom—in the middle of the show. This wouldn’t be a problem except we’re doing a show with an exit that leads to the bathrooms, so this kid gets up, walks across the stage, leaves, goes to the bathroom and then, right in the middle of the “reveal” of Lavinia, he starts SINGING IN THE BATHROOM. If I had hands at that moment, I would have face-palmed.

Thankfully, Angela, ever the professional, ignored it (and ignored the kid walking back through the space back to his seat in the middle of her monologue). The family left at intermission, but I felt bad that they stayed that long, since most of the “adult content” happens in the first half. There is also a part of me that wishes they had stayed to see the end result—I feel like they didn’t get the “we all learned a valuable lesson today” message, just the “horrid things happen to people sometimes for no reason” bit.

Our post-show talk back was very well attended on opening night and the audience had a ton of great questions both about the show and just about how the company works. It has been wonderful to be able to get actual feedback from the audience after (and sometimes during) the show. I have noticed that there is a lot of hesitation to talk to me after the show from people who don’t already know me. One person told me that they “almost didn’t want to talk to you  since it seems like you’ve been through enough already”. I wonder if this is the case.

I have never been an actress who needs “approval” to feel like I succeeded, but for some reason, I have found myself wanting to know what the audience and our reviewers think of my performance  much more than in other roles I’ve played. My theory is that I pour so much of energy and emotion into this role every night that I’m physically and mentally exhausted by the end, and knowing that I am affecting the audience in the ways I want is confirmation that my energy is being spent well.

I had a guy come up to me after the show and tell me that “All I wanted to do was give you my coat”. That simple comment meant a lot to me because I feel so particularly vulnerable during much of the second and third act–being so close to the audience means that there is no safety barrier– everyone sees my drooling and my tears and probably the places on my legs I missed shaving, but having the audience that close also means that I can use their energy to propel my performance forward

My favorite comment, across the board, wasn’t said to me, but to Jeb, who is playing Chiron–Some woman came up to Jeb after the show and told him that “what they did to you…was not nearly enough”. Whoa. I love that our show is able to generate that sort of deep emotional response from an audience. (It’s also kind of funny because Jeb is one of the kindest, gentlest people I know!).

There is an incredible scene (and my hands-down favorite) at the end of the show in which I finally get some vengence, and feeling the audience’s energy in that scene is incredible. Watching people’s absolute hatred towards Chiron and Demetrius and their catharsis at watching them punished is almost scary–but also really satisfying.

There was also a moment on Saturday night when, during that scene, suddenly ominous thunder started rumbling from outside–thanks, gods!

In general, I am so absolutely happy with how this show is going. Yes, there is the occasional backstage emergency (last night, we couldn’t find the pie server—gasp!) but across the board, everyone is so invested in the success of this show and so dedicated to giving the audience a unique and challenging theatrical experience that every night I walk (okay, limp) off stage excited to do it again tomorrow.

We have two days (2!!) off and then we start the whole process over again with College Night on Wednesday. Here’s to two days of video games and not a bit of stage blood.

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