So we close in a week and a bit, and this will be my final post. I've enjoyed doing them, though it's sometimes hard for me to express myself and remain objective about a subject that is so close to me. It's one of the hardest things to do, to retain some objectivity in a very subjective business. It takes a lifetime of work. I also sometimes find it hard to keep a sense of humor about it all. In some ways this is the most important work I could ever be doing...but really, it's just a play. How important can it be? There's the inherent contradiction in The Work: it's both the most and least important thing in our lives as artists. This is brought home to us in the running of a play over a long period of time.
As I may have said before, the thing that defines the theater is that it's live. The play lives and is a breathing organism: it will grow and change throughout the run. It's crucial that the scenes live and breathe and are true to the moment of time in which they exist. If we all did nothing more than recreate what we've done before, it would feel like just that: something that's been done before. No audience wants to see something that's been done before, they want to see a living, breathing show. But of course, the words must remain the same, most of the movements, and the essence of the scenes must remain the same. If this sounds like a paradox that's because it is one. How do you retain the spirit of a play as you've rehearsed it and yet not become an automaton over a long run? When I did Hamlet at CST the run was three months, and Macbeth has been a little more than two. How do we not end up in a rut performing the same actions over and over again?
I think the answer lies in a couple of places. First of all, it helps to be working on a great play. I've been lucky enough to be in the classical theater most of my working life, and almost any longish run I've had has been in a well-written play. (I say longish because I've never run a show for more than six months...some of the big musicals can run for 5 years or more.) A play by a master playwright has layers upon layers of discoveries for actors. The best plays have as much complexity as human existence can allow. They're the kinds of plays that make actors get up in the morning, and they don't tire easily. Secondly, the answer lies in the act of acting itself. When you discover a moment as an actor, it comes unbidden. You can't force moments of theater into existence; you can only allow them to come. In my opinion a truly great actor allows his performance to be born anew each night, without too many preconceived notions about how it will present itself. If you know the who, what, when, where, and why, the how will take care of itself. So the attempt is to remain true to this notion of spontaneity, in a fixed form. It could be thought of as controlled improvisation.
I'm going to miss the show and the actors who do it. It's such a great group. I'm going to miss clowning with Danforth Comins (Banquo) before our first entrance. I'll miss the near ritual of "what time is it?" in the dressing room, at a crucial moment of Jamie Newcomb's (Ross) in Act IV scene iii. I'll miss Mike Nussbaum's porter, his hair, and his breasts, not to mention the super-sexy couple of Roxy and Vic (David Lively at his oiliest). I'll miss Karen Aldridge's blood-curdling scream of horror—not to mention the rest of her—and Brandon Ford's exceptionally pugnacious "Cease and Withdraw!" It'll be sad to not get to murder Steve Lenz in cold blood any more, nor to almost kiss Patrick Clear's much put-upon doctor.
And I'm really going to miss listening to Rengin Altay's Lady Macduff and Matthew Levy's Macduff's son. They've taught me what that scene is about—I've never understood it before—and it breaks my heart every time. Thanks for reading these and sharing this journey with me.
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