Monday, March 25, 2013

Acting Across the Boards

by Debbie Weil
OHA Board member, author, and digital publisher

Acting is equal parts exhilaration and terror. Exhilaration because you are creating a live experience for the audience that makes them think and feel. And terror because you’ve got to remember your lines, remember your cues, and then deliver every nuance of pitch and timing and gesture that the director has called for. There is no safety net. You are under the lights, in the moment and, if you are lucky, in the flow.
I learned this last summer when I was given the chance to tread the boards for the first time as one of the lead actors in Sue Bolton’s lovely ten-minute play, “Hide and Seek.” Working with director Judith Jerome was extraordinary. It felt like a guilty pleasure. As an OHA board member and a lifelong theatre goer, I know something about live performances. But not until I rehearsed (and rehearsed) under Judith’s direction was the curtain really drawn. I began to understand what happens on stage and behind the scenes to make a play come to life.
More recently, I had the chance to attend a rehearsal of the winter play, John Cariani’s Last Gas. Sitting in the audience, a few rows behind Judith who directed the production, I had a far keener appreciation of what was happening on stage. It was a scene that took place on the divided stage set and required almost simultaneous lines between actors who couldn’t see one another. Ah, how well I now understood the difficulty of not being able to “see” the cues for your lines. The actors must have rehearsed this two-minute scene 30 times, improving it every time.
Live theatre is created through the camaraderie and trust of so many players who work together: the playwright and the director, the actors, the stagehands, the tech folks and, not least, the audience. It is addictive. Pardon me for asking, but when are the next auditions for community actors?