This past weekend, August: Osage County closed. I was so, so sad (the cast bet I’d be the first to cry), but it was truly a “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” experience. I love this cast so much. We already all liked each other a lot, but dealing with all the stuff that went down during the tech process, we got even closer. Our director left after the first Sunday, and the show got better after he left. We had great audiences every night, and I had friends and family come to see the show on a few different nights.

1977209_10152402575757932_231415369_n

Our final Saturday performance, our sound designer decided to change things up. He’d hated the actors as a whole since we unreasonably demanded that he not blast music over our lines whenever he felt like it. So on Saturday, he decided to give us a big middle finger… several times. First, he changed the ringtone of a character’s phone. Then, in the same scene, he turned the music up so loud that only half of the final line could be heard. He also changed some of the transition music. In the green room, we were all fuming. As we found out later, he hadn’t even talked with our stage manager; he was just changing cues on a whim. After the show, he practically ran through the lobby full of actors and audience, out the door. Oh, and did I mention this was the first night that our director came back?

We had a cast party that night, and I just love being with those people. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile, and it was really hard to say goodbye to the cast the next day. I really hope I’ll be able to work with them again. My parents came to see it that afternoon, and they seemed to enjoy it.

1661075_10202628770894886_997197045_n

The day after we closed, I had a day full of theatre. I got up early to go to an Equity call for a big Philadelphia theatre. I had planned to get there super early, but I had a Murphy’s Law morning and ended up getting there on time, which in theatre time means I was about 45 minutes late. I was sooo far down on the list that I didn’t know if I’d get seen before I had to leave for a meeting at 12:30. And I was right- by the time 12:30 rolled around, they were only on #10 and I was 29. But I had to leave, so I did, figuring I might be able to come back.

My meeting was with the head of the Philadelphia Dramatist’s Center. I had submitted to two of their playwriting programs and was rejected from both of them. This was over the summer. So when I saw an email from the head, I thought one of the old ones had somehow found its way to the top of my inbox. But, no, it was new. He said he remembered me and pulled my file when they needed a new Resident Literary Manager and Dramaturg; he respects a few of my professors and my alma mater in general. I also like to think my writing played a part in my selection. He invited me to talk about the position to see if I wanted it.

The  guy is SUPER awesome. I don’t have an easy time making conversation with people I’ve just met, but he had such an easy, friendly air about him that I felt comfortable right away. We talked about August and its playwright, then about the position, which sounds great. Basically, playwrights who are members of the PDC each get a free hour-long session with me. Beforehand, I read their script, prepare feedback, etc. If they want subsequent sessions, I’m allowed to charge. I can meet whenever and wherever I want with them, and the sessions can also be over the phone or email. I’m really excited to give this position a shot, though I’m definitely nervous; I have no official dramaturgy experience beyond what I’ve done for myself.

After that awesome meeting, I went back to the big theatre, hoping I’d run in just in time to make my slot. But apparently, as soon as I left, they called in numbers 11-39, whom they saw in less than half an hour. Welcome to show business. So I signed up again and decided to wait until 4:30, when I’d have to leave to make it to my next audition. I was called in just after four. I actually feel pretty good about how it went. The part is a 21 year-old college student who is making a webseries and is snarky- love it. I will never in my life expect to even be called back by this theatre, but I do feel good about the work I did.

As soon as that audition was over, I hopped on the subway, rode to my car, drove to my house where I changed and grabbed a granola bar for dinner, and drove to a theatre in Delaware. I hadn’t planned to go to this audition until two days beforehand, when I happened to see a casting call for Mr. Marmalade. I studied this play extensively during my second semester at my arts high school, and I loved it, even though I was too naive to really get what it was about. I directed a scene from it for my directing class, but that was as close as I’ve gotten to it since high school. Also, NO ONE DOES IT. EVER. So when I saw this call, I had to go.

The audition was fun. There weren’t many people there, but there had been another set of auditions the night before. I was going for two roles- Lucy, the main character; and Emily, a supporting role. There were four scenes done at auditions, and the director had me read Lucy in all of them. I was feeling really good about the audition, and this morning, I got the call saying I’ve been cast as Emily! I’m so excited to finally be in this play.

And last but not least, I’ve finally decided to get new headshots after hating mine for almost three years.

When I started my new job, one of my roommates was a trainer for the company and the other was a regular-level employee. Since then, they have both been promoted. They’re very good at their job and doing just as well since they’ve gotten their new positions. But as well as they’re doing, and as much extra money as they’re making, I do not envy them. When I was a kid I loved to be in charge of people, but not anymore. 

This week, while doing crazy driving between work and the show, I was thinking that I was really happy that I have a good job that not only pays well, but lets me act. Since my roommates were promoted, they’ve had to give up acting. Once we get more people working in our market, that might change, but it makes me sad that they can’t act because they don’t even have time to even audition, let alone rehearse. While I’m happy to have this job, acting is more important to me than it. 

So last night when I got home from the show, I was in the living room while my roommates Skyped with each other (one is training people in Virginia.) I’ve had a really good week sales-wise, which was written about on the company webpage, a note along the lines of  “Does every single store Rachel open do this great?!” and my roomies were talking about it.

“We really should make Rachel the manager of something,” Roomie 1 said, and the other agreed. 

I felt really bad that my stomach sunk upon hearing that. They want to promote me because I’m doing well, not to affect my life negatively. But the fact is that if I’m not acting, my life is affected negatively. It’s bad enough when I’m auditioning and not getting anything, but to not even have the ability to audition? That’s when I would start to hate my job, and I don’t want to hate my job.

Nothing has been mentioned since, and I know that my conflicts for this coming week are annoying (four shows, therapy, an audition, and a meeting with a playwriting coordinator.) Normally, I would have offered to skip the audition to free up the day it’s taking up, but this time, I didn’t. Not only do I want to go to the audition, I’ve missed two auditions in two and a half weeks because I was working. That’s not my roommate’s fault; for some reason, theatres are announcing their auditions less than a week before they happen, not allowing me to ask off in advance. But I’m not willing to miss another audition. 

Aside

All of the Things

It has been a crazy, crazy few weeks.

August: Osage County opened last Friday, but getting there was a trial. Nothing was ready- lines were being called for way too late in the process, the set wasn’t done, and the sound designer refused to stop blasting poorly-chosen music over important lines. Also, our assistant stage manager, who had been very sweet up until tech, suddenly couldn’t say anything without rolling her eyes and snapping at us. She was definitely overworked, being both ASM and the props master, but both things had to be done, and they weren’t. Act II is a single scene that runs for 45 minutes, the iconic dinner scene. Two days before we opened, we still hadn’t done the act with food. Food changes timing, delivery, and blocking, and the actors were all panicked. But no matter who or how much we asked, we couldn’t get a straight answer as to when we’d get food and how much there would be.

The same thing went for something even more important: stage combat. As Johnna, I have a scene in Act III where I save fourteen year-old Jean from being assaulted by her 50 year-old uncle-to-be. This involves me hitting him with a frying pan. Up until about a week and a half before opening, I didn’t even have a frying pan, and when I finally got one, it was much too heavy. Besides being cast iron, it also had a thick wooden handle that added to the weight and made the pan really hard to hold. We tried the choreography with it, and by the second of three swings, my wrist couldn’t support the pan. I told the director this and he gave me a look and said, “It’s okay, your wrist will get stronger.” No. A thousand times no. Strengthening exercises are done on your own over weeks or months. They are not done when you’re swinging a heavy object at someone’s face. It wouldn’t have been safe under any circumstance, but in addition to my weak wrist, the pan’s weight kept throwing me off-balance, which basically meant that I was (accidentally) throwing away all of the choreography.

Four times over a few days, I told the director or the stage manager that the pan was too heavy and I felt out of control. Four times I was poo-pooed or ignored. Finally, I came into rehearsal two days before we opened and Mark, who plays Steve, said he’d gotten me a new pan. It was light and perfect for the scene, and I thanked him profusely for getting me the pan, but he shouldn’t have had to. There were many other instances like this, including the sound board up just leaving in the middle of acts two and three, and we actors were all panicked. We’d been doing our best to fix any mistakes made backstage, but at final dress, we all decided to stop fixing the mistakes and let the director see how the show would be if he didn’t listen to us.

Needless to say, we were all pretty nervous for opening night. None of us felt ready; I know I wasn’t the only one who felt like there was something missing from the show. But an audience was coming and we had to perform. And opening night went GREAT. I don’t know how we pulled it off, but we did. There was still a bit of a disconnect between us and the material, but considering what it was like the night before, I was amazed. The second night was even better, and even Sunday’s show was good for a matinee. Yesterday, our review came out and it’s a rave!

My S.O. had talked about coming from Connecticut to see the show Saturday night, then driving back to my place and staying with me for a few days. So when I happened to glance into the audience on Friday’s opening night and see him there, my heart about stopped. I wasn’t completely sure, and I couldn’t study the audience to figure it out, so I just hoped my performance had been good. As it happens, it WAS him; he’d apparently schemed with my roommates to figure out my work schedule and everything. I was very happy to see him and really touched that he thought to surprise me 🙂

On top of all the drama, I’ve been working a ton and going through withdrawal. I went completely off my SSRI two Saturdays ago, and it has not been pleasant. I’ve only really had one side effect, but it’s been awful: brain shocks. First, they happened any time I moved suddenly, which, in a play like August, is EVERY FIVE SECONDS. Then they stopped happening so frequently, but when they did, they’d last longer and affect more of my body; I’d actually have to stop and let it finish coursing through me before continuing whatever I was doing. The last few days, they’ve been less frequent, but when they happened, my hearing would be affected. Today I was finally able to exercise and the shocks hardly happen at all. It’s been a long almost-two-weeks, though.

The show starts its second weekend tomorrow and I can’t wait to get back. As hellish as tech was, our director has left, and the cast has gotten really close. In fact, since Monday (less than a day after we’d last seen each other), we all started sending mass emails to each other saying how much we missed our castmates and the show. And now that the stress of dress rehearsals are done, I’ve actually burst into happy tears several times just because I’m so happy to be in a long-running show again. I need to start looking for my next one…

Countdown

It’s been awhile, and I’ve been super busy. After I last wrote, rehearsals were constant. For the most part, the rehearsals for August have been making me really really happy, to the point where both of my doctors told me that I need as much theatre as I can get, as it elevates my mood so much.

But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been stressful. Johnna is a really hard part, and I still feel boring in the role. I’m hoping that, since Johnna is basically the audience presence in the play, having an actual audience will help me, because even though I’ve been trying out new things, I still feel static.
We’ve also lost about seven days of rehearsals because of snow, and it’s really taking its toll. We open in less than a week and we’re not ready. We have only most of the set, which we just got about a week ago, and because it has three levels, it requires a lot of reworking, if not entirely reblocking. This is causing a lot of distress for some of us. My anxiety was through the roof all through tech today, and the actor playing Barbara burst into tears before we started.

I’m trying to calm myself by remembering that we still have five days before we open, and that I completely believe in this talented cast to put on a good show. But all the talent and skill in the world can’t stop the giant blizzard that’s supposed to roll in while we’re rehearsing tomorrow, continue all through Monday, and into Tuesday. It would be a problem no matter what, but about half of this cast, myself included, live an hour or more away from the theatre. I decided that, if I were going to get snowed in somewhere, it would be better if I were two minutes from the theatre. And if worse comes to worst, the one cast member who lives four blocks away from the playhouse might have actors sleeping all over her floor.

And while all of this is going on, I get dizzy every time I turn my head because I’m being weaned off of my SSRIs. While I’m glad to be taking fewer brain pills, tech for a play in which things are always happening suddenly is not the best place to have vertigo.

As stressed as I am, I am so excited to finally be doing another show where I get to do five shows a week. It’s been years, and it’s the best kind of routine. I can’t wait to get started for real.