3rd Preview

3rd Preview —

Got a morning text from our Company Manager. She wants me to see Taaj right away instead of waiting for Friday. I agree and the appointment is made for 6:05 in the evening. It’s raining in the morning and I broke fast on hard boiled eggs and cottage cheese after opting to skip yoga. My leg is still sore and I am really afraid of doing more injury.

Today the company gathers at the Theatre at 1:45 so we can rehearse and refine some scenes. The rain subsided and the crew went at the deck with big squeegees with a vigor that got the stage into a playable state in a matter of minutes. Our director gave us some notes on the 2nd preview and exhorted us to trust him, the story and Shakespeare himself. The next step he is rallying us to take it the biggest step, and that is to play with our hearts, to stop thinking and start reacting to stimuli both real and imagined, to passionately convey our ideas. I know what he wants. We all know. He is asking us to cross into the realm of Shakespeare on stage that one might describe as “the zone”. Golfers go into the zone, so to do basketball players, singers, ballet dancers, the list goes on. In all these cases the performer is striving to take thought out of the process and just “do it”! In the world of hi performance fighter jets it is an article of faith that an aviator in combat will not “rise to the occasion” but will instead default to the level of their training.

I can’t speak for any of my colleagues. For myself, going into the zone, or playing from the heart or whatever else you want to call it, starts with being absolutely stone cold solid with my lines. A fraction of a second of doubt about lines is all it takes to break the spell. Next I must be completely clear about what I’m trying to say, about the ideas I want to express with the words I know so well. Words spoken without strong ideas attached are just recitation. Third, I need to feel comfortable in the space and in my clothes. An unfamiliar space or an ill fitting costume are like someone farting during the sermon in church. When all of these pieces of the puzzle are in place then the circumstance is right for that magical transcendance. Whether or not it actually happens is another matter altogether. With lines, ideas and physical setting in place a good performance will always take place. Sometimes that magical transcendent performance in the zone happens and it’s happening before you realize it. To have one of those performances a week is a great blessing. I’ve been studying my lines religiously, I know what I want to say, and my Toni Leslie James costume fits me like a second skin. If my leg holds up I’m in a good place to have some magic happen to me.

The consult with Taaj went really well. Turns out I just pulled my calf muscle and did not tear it or damage it is a gross way. No tendons are involved and ice, heat, ibuprofen and mindfulness in movement would be enough to get me back to 100% in a week. The peace of mind her assessment and subsequent massage provided me made me feel much better. I immediately texted Liza Witmer with the news and strolled over to the Theatre in time for vocal warm ups.

Knowing my leg was not badly injured really put my mind in a good place. My voice felt strong and resonant during warm ups, and afterwards I tested my leg on the set, and on the ladder I must climb up and down. There were no problems. I did some pushups on stage and retired to my dressing room to get dressed. Wardrobe team had everything in place for me and I dressed in two stages. First the underwear and trousers, then I went over to the sound team to have my body mic taped on. Mic in place I finished dressing and sat down to review my lines. At this point it is a mental process that involves closing my eyes and imagining the actions and words that I go through in my scenes. I effectively play out my role in my minds eye. There is a dual benefit in that the process is very meditative.

When my cue came for my first entrance my leg felt tight but did not hurt. My scene partners were energetic and passionate, I matched and exceeded their energy and excitement and the scene built to a crescendo.  I came down the ladder and the dresser was there, I didn’t even look back as I put my arms out and felt the sleeves of my costume being pulled over them. I was seeing the scene about to be played in my head for a moment and listening for my cue, when it came I hurried onto the stage with the news that my daughter had disappeared from the house. I was panicked, upset, confused. It was inconceivable to me that Desdemona would leave me and go to the arms of the Moor Othello. I gathered my kinsmen and servants together to confront him at his lodgings in the Sagittary. We found him there and I shouted my accusations and charges at him, but there was a delegation there from the Doge of Venice. Othello had been summoned to appear before the Doge and the council and it was certain that I was called for as well. I decided to take my case directly there. At the council I demanded that the Doge and my fellow senators address my complaint about the abduction of my daughter by the Moor Othello.

I present my case to the Council. Othello makes a persuasive rebuttal. Finally Desdemona arrives and settles the question by explaining that she loves Othello and went to him willingly and eagerly. I’m heartbroken. I retroactively consent to the match and then retire to my seat in the senate. Talk turns to the business of state and the Doge dismisses us. As I leave I warn Othello that Desdemona’s betrayal of her father may be a harbinger of a future betrayal…of him.

I leave the stage and by the time I get to my dressing room I realize that I really played those scenes from the heart; that I was very firmly “in the zone”. It was like finding treasure, or hitting the lotto, or falling in love. It was a blissful and fleeting feeling. To get a magic performance like that on the 3rd preview is a good sign indeed.

More to come.