On Saturday night, we concluded our nine performance run of RICHIE. Now, I am launched into catch-up mode. Catching up on sleep, on cleaning, on emails and phone calls and appointments and Candy-Land and cooking, catching up on the life that resided outside of the theatre bubble that I rolled around in for six high-speed weeks.
I feel relieved. Now I have my evenings back and I can sleep – oh, a blessed bedtime of 9:30 pm! Now I can pay more attention to my child and my husband and my family and friends. Now I have more space in my life for so many things – because in my experience at least, theatre takes up a lot of space. When I’m involved in a show, even when I’m not physically there, I’m mentally there. I am a person divided until the show closes. Well, actually I’m always divided; it’s just more obvious when I’m in rehearsal.
I’m really sad to say good-bye to RICHIE and all the trappings associated with that production. There’s a mourning period at the end of every show for me – a sense of loss and disorientation as I transition back to “real life” and to all of the many tasks and people who were banished to the back-burner during weeks of rehearsal and performance. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a little teary-eyed as I type on a Sunday afternoon – we did have our final performance last night followed quickly (by me) with a grilled cheese sandwich, two gin and tonics, a few hours of frenzied dancing with castmates and five hours of sleep. That’s a recipe to get my tear-factory started!
Yeah, I’m not surprised that I’m having a hard time saying good-bye to RICHIE. This show was just what I needed at this time in my life, arriving when I was open to learning some things that I’ve needed to learn for awhile now. And it was fun. Really, really fun.
Look, it’s awesome to be on-stage. It just is. It’s an honor to walk into an amazing story as another human being, onto a stage where people pay to see you perform (You can see me! I exist!), and applaud when you finish – it’s fantastic. It’s a gift. Bathing in all those chemicals that rush around your body and brain when you are on a tightrope of anxiety and exhilaration, plus the deep and focused concentration that it takes to sustain a performance over two hours, plus the feeling of accomplishment that comes after you’ve worked so hard alongside other people of like-minds and hearts – the combination is seductive, it’s addictive, it’s being seen, it’s incredible. It’s exhausting, but whew, what a rush!
Not to mention that I was lucky enough to play a character with her own freaking fan club. How sad am I to give that up? Really sad. Here’s a recommendation – if you can, play a character who assumes power over the course of the story surrounded by a group of women who chant her name and do her bidding. Do this because you will feel really super unusually cool. No matter how much you remind yourself about the difference between real-life and pretend, some of those feelings of bad-ass coolness will bleed over and you will feel more powerful and more affirmed and more alive than usual. Give this gift to yourself with the understanding that you will be bummed when it’s over and that you will feel slightly ridiculous when you return to reality. Actually, we should all be each others’ fan club in real life. Let’s just do that for each other, ok? Wouldn’t that be great?
People seemed to like RICHIE. Performances sold out. The audience was packed. That’s all great stuff, but I don’t have the perspective to know what RICHIE was like for audience members. I don’t have enough distance at this point to know if it was ‘good’ or powerful or entertaining or if I was any of those things. We can’t ever really know that across the board since so much depends on each individual’s experience and expectations and point of view. I sure think it was good (what a silly word to apply). I’m very proud of our work. This show, an all female adaptation of Richard II, a pub-crawl thru Durham, a Paris Hilton/Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan homage, got a lot of attention and that was fantastic. It’s a lot more fun when your show gets good reviews and people say good things and you get a lot of attention in the press, but for me as an actor, that’s the icing, not the cake. (Side note: For producers and theatre-company-directors, reviews/word of mouth/press are more than just icing since those things can have an impact on the financial health and viability of the company. Just a reminder that if you love a show, spread the word, share the love and encourage people to see it.).
As an actor on this show, my ‘cake’ was the experience of being inside the process and the world and the show of RICHIE. That’s what I’m sad to give up. In the world that we created, I felt able to push the boundaries of my experience of being a woman, well, a human, really. I don’t know if others in the cast had this experience…gosh, I’m having a hard time articulating this….but I felt, more than ever before, the freedom and ability to be simultaneously beautiful and ugly, girlish and wise, aggressive and fierce and profane and vulnerable, sexy and powerful, muscular and lyrical, charming and dangerous and silly and funny, superficial and deep deep deep WOMAN. This is big for me. This open-source complexity is something I believe in, but have never fully owned. In the world of this play, serious gorgeous Shakespearean verse could co-exist with four-letter-words as tools wielded by women doing business and living life. It was warrior and princess, madonna and whore, a mash-up of masculine/feminine without compartmentalizing or categorizing. I don’t know if this was due to the absence of male characters or the overwhelming presence of female characters (19 of us), but there was some heady female alchemy present.
So, in my mind, my character chose her costume because she liked it (short-shorts, tummy-showing blouse, a wig, false eyelashes, knee-high boots, a metric ton of red lipstick) and not because some dude might think it was hot. There were no dudes in the world of RICHIE. And no offense, Dudes, but it was nice to have some play-time in a land without you for a little while. It was fierce female power on-stage (how liberating!). And off-stage, the women (and the few fab guys too) were generous professionals who brought their ‘A games’ and were all bent on telling a kick-ass story.
That’s what I will miss –what I always miss — the people and the joyful community of theatre-makers that form like an extended flash-mob before disappearing again. They’ve become my friends, and I will miss seeing them regularly. I will also miss the deep and physical witness of powerful women (even deeply flawed fictional women) who were in charge of life and death without second-guessing their right to do so. It’s hard to know when we will see another cast of 19 women on-stage together. I’m so lucky to have been a part of that.
I will miss living the language of the Bard. I haven’t felt so invincible since I was a senior in college acting in Measure for Measure. Something about speaking Shakespeare’s language…the words offer electric insight into the power and complexity of the human experience. It’s like drinking from a fire hose — in a good way. William Shakespeare, I salute you.
We know that the beauty of theatre is the impermanence of the art-form. It’s also part of the gig — projects blossom and end, then the next one comes along. Next Thursday, when I’m sitting on my butt on my couch at 8 p.m. with a plate of nachos, relaxing with a doofy action movie, I will be happy to be there. I will be holding my hubbie’s hand (when I’m not shoveling nachos) and I will be grateful to be at home in my cozy house. I will be excited about my next creative project. I won’t be thinking so much about RICHIE. But right now, frankly, I’m damn sad to say good-bye.