To Be an Actor for a Day

It was called Play in a Day and that was literally what it was.  An English-speaking theater company puts this event on and you can sign up to be a writer, an actor or a director.  They said not to worry if you had little to no experience, it was a great way to sink your elbows into the folds of theater.  If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you would know that I LOVE theater.  It’s a necessary art form, it can be a vehicle for social change, for awareness, for comedy, for so much.  If all art forms bundled together were like an ice cream cone, theater is the myriad of rainbow sprinkles splattered on top.  Without it, that damn ice cream cone just wouldn’t be nearly as good or sugarly enriching (yes, I just made the word “sugarly” up).

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I signed up to be an actor.  I was hesitant, I’ll admit.  I shuffled my feet for at least a week, making silly excuses in my head as to why I wouldn’t be able to give up an entire day to be involved with theater, to meet some new people who obviously also have an affinity for theater and to do something so incredibly different from anything I’ve ever done before.  Then I reminded myself of that quote that I have definitely mentioned in at least one other blog post, the one my friend, Katie, told me, “feel the fear and do it always.”  So I signed up to be an actor.

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Here’s how it worked: at 9PM on Friday night the writer got the assignment for which script they would be writing.  By “assignment” I mean they received an email stating how many actors were in their play and what their sexes were, an object that would have to be used (ours were two metal colanders with colorful zip ties attached all over) and a line they must incorporate into the script.  It was the same line for each script, “It’s the perfect day for it.”  The writers had the night to write their play which must be under 10 minutes when performed and in the morning the director received the play I think around 10AM.  Then at 11AM the actors met with the director, they went over the script, rehearsed, memorized their lines and got everything down pat within 6 hours.  There was a two-hour break for getting last-minute things done as far as obtaining any other needed props, shoveling some food down their gullets, chugging some water, being alone and meditating on their lines, whatever.  Then they met at the theater to do one final rehearsal on stage with lights and the show started at 9PM.  There were 8 different groups performing.

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A dance show projected onto the facade of a Gaudí building

The days leading up to that Saturday I started to make excuses again in my head as to why I shouldn’t do it.  I thought about backing out numerous times.  “What am I thinking, I’m not an actor!”  Sure, I’d done a few monologue pieces in the past and I was really into slam poetry when I was in college but that was years ago.  I told the mean middle school girl in my head to shut the hell up.  We’re doing this!

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Our play was incredibly abstract and when I read through the script I pretty much couldn’t comprehend it at all.  It wasn’t until we actually started rehearsing and picking apart the script and finding the deeper meaning attached to it that I could make sense of it.  Allow me to try to explain.  You know those spas you can go to where you put your feet in a bath and little fish eat the dead skin off your feet?  If you have never heard of this, rest assured it’s something I have only heard about in passing.  The finer details of fish pedicures I know absolutely nothing about, nor do I really care to educate myself on this strange subject.  Our play was called, “Those Who Fish For Our Fish Pedicure Fish.”  It was about the menial laborers who have to train the fish to eat dead skin off of feet by suffering long bouts of fish pedicures themselves during the graveyard shift.  Do these people even actually exist?  I have no idea.  The metal colanders with colorful zip ties were meant to be the fish that, in this fictional world, attach themselves to the colander through which they feed on your feet.  The message we understood was about being in a dead-end, incredibly unenjoyable job where you get paid little, you’re underappreciated,  and your boss never comes around so you’re not even sure a boss actually exists.  It was about the effectiveness of unions and also either making a change if you don’t like something or sitting back and becoming complacent.

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Our director, Ben, told us to channel that job we’ve had in our lives that we just dreaded going to, where we had no passion and just went through the motions.  I thought about the upscale pizza restaurant I worked at last winter in Rochester and how much I hated it there.  I remembered dreading each and every shift and typically crying on the way home, if not holding back tears while I was at work because I thought I would be stuck working at this job I loathed forever.  I remembered beating myself up thinking I had gone all the way to Central America to teach English, as that’s what I really want to do with my life, only to return back home and fall right back into the same job patterns I had before, waitressing.  There’s nothing wrong with restaurant work, I have tremendous respect for people who work in restaurants, it’s a really difficult job.  But for me personally, that pizza restaurant represented my “failure” at not sticking to teaching English but rather falling into old job patterns that I had tried desperately to get away from.  Needless to say I could easily get into my role for this play.

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Thankfully, our script was heavy on physical movement and light on lines making things easier to memorize.  What I couldn’t believe about myself was that I wasn’t really that nervous about being on stage.  Sure, the little stomach tingles here and there but it wasn’t like ten thousand knots in my stomach wreaking havoc on my digestive track and disallowing me to have a proper bowel movement for days, as I’ve heard some actors suffer from.  Overall, it went smoothly, especially for only having 6 hours to rehearse.  I was proud of myself.  Meryl Streep move over, here I come!

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It can be so difficult to put yourself out there like this.  We all doubt ourselves, it’s pretty normal.  But in that doubting, I think it’s essential to face it and pick it apart.  Why are you doubting yourself?  And once you figure out the reasons which are typically inane bullshit reasons like, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I’ll make a fool out of myself,” then you take those reasons stuff them in a wood stove and burn the shit out of ’em.  You are capable.  I am capable.  Do it.  Do it always.

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