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…

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