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dedicating my life to conflict

Well it’s dress rehearsal and we have our first audience tomorrow and it dawns on me I am not doing my job. I have been skittering around this character. I’ve done my historical research, I’ve decided what region she comes from, I’ve thought about her health, I’ve thought about her record collection…and ever so briefly I have touched on her marriage, her fertility, her history with violence. The director has spent too much time on my scene, in my opinion, because of me. I haven’t landed her yet. I am allowing her to escape into her “character” that she puts on, her bella figura, her tipsy vamp, so that she doesn’t have to be vulnerable. So that I don’t have to be vulnerable. She pisses me off. She’s so self destructive. She’s made such bad choices in her life. She is so fragile and broken and needy. she’s an aging performer who is past her “prime” and doesn’t get asked on stage anymore. Holy crap do I ever not want to go there.Unknown

This is unusual for me. Usually I am pretty transparent as an actor and emotionally available. But this time I am being…what am I being…? I am being selfish.

I am the happiest I’ve been in my life. Right now. i am deliriously happy. I am basking in it. I am dumbfounded by it. I’ve had enough with heartbreak, death and violence. I don’t want to spend a second more living in that energy. I want to stay here in the sun with my daughter, my family, my Fellow, my lovely home off the Drive and my faltering but respectable career! I am HAPPY! This is rare and this won’t last! Somebody is going to die, some market is going to crash, someday my phone isn’t going to ring. ever. again. But right now, everything is miraculously well! I am resistant to acting I am resistant to writing, I don’t even want to read. I just want to cook, mother, garden, and make love.Unknown-1

But beyond the fact that is not financially sustainable…

I made a vow quite a while ago to dedicate my life to the exploration of sorrow, conflict, fear and despair. It really hit me tonight. Every single story on every single page, screen, and stage, is full of terror and pain. And “noir” is almost as tragic as farce. In fact, speed it up and add a few slamming doors and it would be farce. Plays aren’t about happy people. Plays are about survival. We watch them to understand how to survive circumstances. A tragedy is when we watch a story where people make such bad choices they don’t survive them, at least not with their heart intact. This is where poor Jessie lives. This is her address: hell.

I have to go there.

In the past, I was already there. Sure, it was a stretch, believe me, to find No Exit’s Estelle’s impulse to cheat on her husband and murder her own child…but I knew too well what it was like to deal with death and the loss of a marriage. So, the exploration was cathartic. I had a useful place to put the fear and despair. But now? I want to shove that stuff into the ground and cover it with six feet of hard earth and plant daisies.

But I can’t. People are paying good money for me to find genuine terror, shame, and despair.

I phone up my Fellow after all my scenes are done and tell him I just want to be distracted by love. He says, “Lucia, I am not going anywhere.”

Damn he’s smart. Of course I am being possessive with my happiness because I am assuming it is going to evaporate. But I have to trust: this character, Lucia Frangione, has lived through the first second and third rising action of her life, she is halfway through her time line, and this is her climax. Her revelation is Love and her decision is to embrace it. She gets a happy ending. Sure, the denouement will not tie up all fairytale with a big red bow (because that isn’t reality and who wants that?) but it is a happy ending I get to live now. Why not? There are plenty of good stories out there.

It is a psychic sacrifice to be Jessie. It is hard. I guess that’s why not everyone is an actor. But I believe we invite our audience to live truthful healthy lives and seek a spiritual centre by showing them a woman who destroyed her own life because she tried to get by on music, beauty and bourbon.images-1

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1 comment

  1. Leah

    thank you for this. it touched me on many levels. this quote hit me especially:

    “Plays aren’t about happy people. Plays are about survival. We watch them to understand how to survive circumstances. A tragedy is when we watch a story where people make such bad choices they don’t survive them, at least not with their heart intact.”

    thanks for constantly teaching. i am full of admiration for you, my friend.

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