By now, longtime readers are aware of the fact that January is perhaps the busiest month of my year. I'm in the midst of speech season, directing a musical, teaching, and battling winter blahs. This year, I've added to my laundry list of obligations by taking on a major role in the local community theatre production of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite. (For those familiar with the play, I play Norma Hubley, the mother of the bride who has locked herself in the bathroom.) It's a part I've longed to play for a good 20 years or so, so even though I knew tackling this role would be yet another major task in a season already loaded with major tasks, I had to go for it.
Added to the fact that it's a great, funny script and role, PS has always held a special place in my family's "lore." When the local community theatre group first did PS back in 1971, both my mother and father worked on the production. My father designed and ran lights; my mother was the props mistress. The show went up in early fall of 1971 -- meaning that my mother was hugely pregnant with me during the production, so much so that she said that there was a "fear" among the cast that she would go into labor mid-show. Fortunately, I cooperated and waited until the show had closed to make my debut, but I often jokingly refer to PS as my first theatrical experience... in utero. Being able to actually appear in the show feels like a tremendous tribute to the parents who instilled their passion for the arts into their children with a loving ferocity.
This time working on PS has, so far, been a pretty incredible experience. I've never really played a role quite this large. While Norma only appears onstage in one of the show's three acts, she is onstage the entire time. There are several times when she is onstage completely alone. She is a character who frequently changes in an instant -- going from calm to panicked to angry to frightened all in the span of seconds. For the act's roughly 23 pages, it is me and one other actor onstage. That's a LOT of memorizing! My partner in crime onstage (the actor playing my husband) is an incredibly gifted actor, pushing me in terms of what I can bring to the stage with my own acting. (It's an actor I've worked with before, discussed in this post discussing my experience in The Sunshine Boys last spring.) There have been a couple times when I've found myself thinking in my head, "Wow, he's good . . . and I suck!" But there have also been times when I've found myself thinking, "Wow, WE are really clicking in this scene!" There is an amazing feeling that comes from working with a partner onstage and you're both firing on all cylinders and the chemistry and the timing and everything just clicks. It's a really great, natural high.
I know some stressful weeks lie ahead as rehearsals for PS become more plentiful and I get into full rehearsal mode for our spring musical at school, Wonderful Town, but I have a feeling that I'll never regret getting the opportunity to really push myself and grow as a performer and perform in a show that I've longed to do since high school (or maybe even longer). If, however, I disappear from blogging for long stretches or seem particularly grump or irritable, please know that it stems from a very, very tired woman who has a heaping plateful of artistic goodness to munch through.