In truth, I’m not really sure how I feel about last night.
On many levels, it was an amazing success. The audience seemed to love it, the adjudicators seemed to love it, it felt great to perform, and the feedback I’ve been receiving since has been overwhelmingly positive. Plus, I felt a bit of the redemption I was looking for those many months ago. No, it wasn’t quite the situation I had wanted, but I felt like I came to play. That when it mattered most, I stepped up my game and delivered the best performance I was capable of. And in a way, that’s the thing I most needed to prove to myself.
So yes, there are many reasons to be excited about the way it all went down.
But there’s a flip side to all that. A nagging feeling that tugs at me and says, “okay, so why couldn’t you have done that before?”
This show was weird. It was just a plain old weird experience for me. From the moment I was cast and we began rehearsals, I was 100% confident in my ability to play the role. I’ve joked on many occasions that I wasn’t even going to be acting. I was simply being myself. And while I’ve debated with defcon_1 about the merits/difficulty surrounding that, I still maintain that the act itself was much easier than creating a character from scratch. Relying on pure instinct, without having to intellectualize how the character’s situation differs from your own, is a big help. I also got along great with my fellow cast members. I had “fun” the entire time we worked on the show.
But something happened once we actually opened. For those two weekends, even though there were bodies in the house, and on occasion, friends in the house, it never felt like we were performing the show. Part of it was the ramshackle set-up they have. Part of it was how small the crowds were, even at their biggest. But a big part of it was just an overall lack of anything special taking place, either onstage or in the audience. The group has a bizarre dynamic. They seem to perform only for their own enjoyment. They don’t seem to have much interest in building an audience outside of their own friends and family. And for me, that’s a huge disconnect.
I want a crowd. I want strangers in the seats. People who don’t have a vested interested in being there outside of being entertained. An audience that simply loves theater, regardless of who is putting it on.
Somewhere over the next 10 hours or so, I’ll have a conversation with Tito, during which he’ll apologize up and down for not being there last night. He’ll repeatedly drive home the fact that he meant to be, and that circumstances prevented him from being there. And I’ll do my best to reassure him that it wasn’t that big a deal. That I understand he has his own show to worry about and that it took priority. We’ve had variations of the conversation before, where it always strikes me that he’s afraid he has hugely disappointed me. But what I can never seem to make him understand (and no doubt will fail to do again tonight), is that I don’t do this so my friends can come watch me and then tell me how wonderful I am. Yes, a heartfelt “congrats, dude, you were awesome” is always welcome, but the rush of performing comes from just that — performing. I don’t care *who* is out there, as long as *somebody* is out there. Somebody who wants to be.
Last night marked my fifth year at festival. Ever since the first year I’ve been trying to recapture the high I felt after walking offstage as the lights went down on “Butterflies”. I found it again last night. Before a single word was spoken to me by an adjudicator or a friend or even a fellow cast mate, I knew… KNEW… that I had nailed it. I could feel it the whole time we were on stage. We were on fire. And that was all I needed. That feeling. It was a feeling that was sorely lacking in the original staging of the show. Part of it was the cutting, part of it was the added emphasize the director gave us heading into festival, part of it was the race against the clock (and the breakneck pace that resulted), but another part of it — a HUGE part of it — was the atmosphere. Ironically, I hadn’t realized how important a factor that was until I got on that stage last night. Something always felt “off” when we did the run, but I never knew what it was. As is my way, I began questioning my performance, wondering if I had in fact relied *too much* on simply playing myself, and short-changed the show in the process. Perhaps I did. Or perhaps I simply played down to the level of the crowd.
And that’s why I’m not sure how to feel about last night. Because while it is comforting to know I still have the ability to hit one out of the park when the pressure is on, at the same time it’s disappointing to know that I’m just as likely to only hit a single when the pressure’s not.
Why can’t I hit a homerun every time?