Being Disappointing

I like to think that I’m a pretty good friend.

Not a perfect friend, not always, but I like to think that for the people I genuinely care about, I am a good friend to them.

And now, I’m going to be a director.

I’ve been a director before, for different people and for different groups, but usually (with the exception of Complete Works), I’ve either hand-picked my actors or had my actors thrust upon me. Either way, I’ve never really had to make waves. Even with Complete Works, I had a few people I couldn’t find spots for, which sucked, and I felt bad, but most of the people whom I couldn’t find spots for were “theatre friends”, good friends, people who I would like to get to know better eve, but they were not “people to whom I have bared my soul to” friends.

And now, I’m going to be directing Antigone.

The problem, you see, with Antigone, is that there is only one Antigone. There’s only one of…well, everyone. And that’s it. Ten parts, ten people, that’s it, that’s all I get. I literally thought about casting 2 Antigones, or two Creons, or splitting up the Chorus, but then I realized– none of that was serving the play or my dramatic vision, it was serving my desperate need for everyone to like me, all the time.

It’s daunting and humbling, all at the same time. Next week I will be sitting at a table and listening to some of my best friends in the entire world read for my show, offering me their time and talents and supporting me, telling me that “I want to be here, I want a place in this show”, which is a HUGE gift to me, a really meaningful  gift, and I am going to have to tell some of them that “Sorry, I don’t have a place for you”.

That sucks.

It especially sucks because quite a few of my friends, as my friends, in honest conversation,  have told me honestly what roles they are interested in…and many of them want the SAME role. And a lot of them have wanted the role they’ve wanted for a long, long time. I’m going to have to choose between them, all talented, beautiful, fantastic people, and I’m going to have to let some of them down. And that sucks.

I wear many hats. I am “Director” Catie, I am “Friend” Catie, I am “Girlfriend” Catie, I am “family member” Catie…and in all of these roles and in all of these situations, I am good at delineating– at face value.  I have always been really good at shutting down personal feelings and conflict in order to get the best show possible, and that’s what I plan on doing. But I also have a guilt complex– about everything. I have talked before about being a serial apologiser, and in this case, I know that I don’t have to apologize for anything– I’m not doing anything wrong, or offensive, I’m just—casting. But I still feel bad, and auditions haven’t even happened yet.

I am so amazingly, fantastically excited for this show. I have a ton of (what I think are) really good ideas, and I have (what I think is) a really neat vision of what this show can be– but I’m still dreading having to call 25 people to tell them “sorry, friend, but you didn’t make the cut”.

What’s weird is that for the first time, I’m going to be doing a show where more people are going to have to meet “director” Catie. And I’m nervous.

I’m not scared about directing the show– I am a damn fine director. I’m not perfect, but I know how to do a good job and to do things well. What has me thinking about this is that today I realized that for some of my friends, some of the people I care about most in the world, the only time they are going to meet “director Catie” is going to be when I call them to tell them that they didn’t get the part they want. Because eventually, no matter how long I put it off, I’m going to have to choose. And then, that will be it.

And I know. I know it’s the nature of theatre and how the system works and all of that, because that’s– well, it’s just how it is. But I’ve been on the other end of that. I know how much it sucks to be told “You were good—just not good enough”. I know what it’s like to lay awake wondering what you could have done better, where you messed up, or why God just didn’t make you 8 inches taller and a leggy blonde. It happens to actors, it’s a part of theatre, but it’s still a shitty feeling.

I have no idea how auditions are going to go next week, and I am SUPER excited to see what people bring to the table.  I’m excited to be able to work with the people I DO get to cast, to welcome them into my little world, to share my ideas and vision and to hear theirs, and build a show together—

I’m just not excited to disappoint anyone.

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And Now, For Something Completely Different

My blog software just told me that this is my 100th post on my blog–I meant for this to be some sort of intelligent and interesting trek back through time, but then I thought, well…why not just make a bunch of testicle jokes instead?

So today I was super excited to find a message in my inbox from my awesomely talented friend Andrew asking if I might find it in my heart to write him a short monologue for a big audition he has coming up.

I love writing monologues. I’ve written a few for friends before, but today’s was a particularly interesting challenge as the audition required it to be a “non-fiction” piece.

Andrew requested it be about juggling.

Seeing as the show is about Oscar Wilde (who I am a huge fan of), I decided that really the only way to do him justice would be to be…Wildly (sorry) inappropriate.

I’m a little out of practice, but I thought I did pretty well for twenty minutes of writing on a Tuesday after a strike!

How to Juggle (Or, 2 Minutes to Over-kill)
By Catie Osborn

So you’d like to learn how to juggle. Congratulations, dear reader. You have taken your first steps into becoming the life of every party you may find yourself attending from now until the day you find yourself uninterested in attending parties, or dead. Should a party not be available to you, the techniques and skills outlined in this article can still be used to entertain yourself privately for hours on end.

The basic three ball juggle can be learned by most people in a short amount of time… maybe half an hour with help from a good teacher or perhaps a few days on your own. Go through these instructions at your own pace. Before you try each step, relax and visualize what you want to happen. With a little practice and patience, juggling will become easy.

Before you start, it’s important to accept that dropping is inevitable. Work on your technique first and worry about catching anything later. Many people find that juggling over a bed saves a lot of time and energy in picking up dropped balls.

The first and most important thing to learn is to throw and catch a single ball—we will move on quickly, dear reader, because if you can’t manage one, an additional two in your hands may prove disastrous.

When you are confident with your grip (and catching technique), you’re now ready for two balls. Hold one ball in each hand. Throw one of the balls up and across—Each of your hands should receive a ball at the culmination of each throw. Throw, throw, catch, catch.

Spend a few minutes throwing your pair back and forth, right to left and left to right. Each time, try to keep them at eye level or above—one might picture the balls hanging in the air above them—your hands are merely there to keep them from hitting the floor. Practice until this move is smooth and easy. Congratulations! You’ve learned the basic move needed for juggling!

Remember here to take a pause in between throws. “Juggling” works best when done relaxed and slowly.

Finally, when you’re ready, move on to three. Do not be intimidated, dear reader—the three ball juggle is identical to what we’ve just learned—think of the third ball as an additional guest, deserving of as much attention as your other two.

Begin by simply holding the balls to adjust to the feeling of three, placing 2 in the hand that you want to start with and 1 in the other hand. It should be a comfortable feeling. Then, simply toss as you’ve previously learned, adding the third ball directly behind your 2nd toss.

If you are having trouble catching the balls, think about where you are throwing them. The most common problem for beginners is throwing too far out in front of you. To cure this problem, try to keep your balls in front of your face. It may help to juggle in a confined area, such as a closet or out-of-the way room so as to minimize distractions.

With practice, you may even be able to add two sets of balls into your daily practice routine! As you practice, Remember, dear reader, that dropped balls happen. Simply dust them off and try, try again.

First Time Memories

On Friday, a bunch of people I work with came to see the show, which I thought was really cool of them. I haven’t been working in my office very long, but they still made the effort to see my show, and that meant a lot to me.

Today, one of the guys who came to see the show told me that his wife REALLY  liked the show– and that she had never been to a play before, ever. Apparently, she liked it so much that she’s basically been raving about the show all weekend, and even more, she asked him to ask me what shows are coming up next– because she wants to come back and is excited to see more theatre.

On top of all of that, two other people in that same group told me that they signed up for acting lessons this weekend– because (and I quote) “they’d like to have a shot at being a Prenzie Player some day”.

That, my friends….is success.

When I was still in high school, I came to see the Prenzie Player’s production of “Othello”. I wish that I had more concrete memories of the show– I only remember Othello talking to me in the audience, thinking it was incredible that the Prenzies were using BDU’s to represent members of the millitary and that Maggie was really awesome.

What I do remember, more than anything else, was the feeling I had at the end of the show. I was so excited to see theatre that wasn’t stiff and dry and boring. I had been moved, I’d been scared and sad and excited and I even vaguely knew what the actors were saying— and I remember,very specifically, that I turned to my mom and said “I want to work with these people”.

And now, I do.

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.