open heart

Performing in my own semi-autobiographical play is akin to having open heart surgery while awake, filmed on youtube, with “comments” open. I feel very exposed because I am very exposed. And exhausted. The more mature I become as an artist, the more blood I leave on the floor. The more I realize the absolute need for alacrity of thought, focus, honesty. And it must have a psychological toll: revisiting actual times of trauma like that without the safeguard of being detached. I try not to go to the centre of the actual event, but when I say, “his chest has a huge dent in the middle, as though he’s been stepped on by the heel of God”, it is difficult not to see the exact moment I saw my Dad’s chest with the dent in the middle.

After about a week of rehearsals the emotions shut down because the mind says, “Oh, we don’t want to go here anymore, it isn’t safe.” And I have to trick myself into being vulnerable night after night. I assure my heart, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Then I mercilessly tear it wide open again, five times a week. This is different from being in someone else’s play where all the memories are invention. There’s no real risk of hurting yourself unless you don’t get out of character or you’re of the “remember when my dog died when I was six” school of acting (which I highly recommend avoiding).

Then on top of it, to perform this play several times over several years. The hardest thing to achieve on stage is surprise. Try being surprised by a plot you’ve known for thirteen years. So, it cracks me up when people say, “Well, I guess performing in your own show is easy…” Um, no. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Well, that and the skippity hoppity teapot step Max Reimer patiently taught me in Brief Encounter.  I enter my second week gearing up for an athletic event. Enough water. Good sleep. Warmed up. Psychologically prepared.

I’ve had to wake myself up too. This play is very sensual, spiritual, sexual. I don’t have the luxury of having all the taps turned off. I turned them off a couple of years ago, in case the pipes burst.

But it’s spring now. The water has to run. Oh my goodness. The plumbing! It’s painful to wake up. To enter this swirling passionate loving tactile world in the theatre and then to go home to a cat with a cone head who has once again pissed in the house. And the only fellow I’m fond of is across the world. Playing it safe again? I wonder. Liking someone who is completely inaccessible? Good one, Lucia. God forbid you go for a drink with a flesh and blood man standing right in front of you.

But maybe that’s okay.

Waking into this world slowly again through the imaginary world first. With a distant gentleman who is a friend with a question mark at the end. Unknown


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