Thursday, March 5, 2009

'The Dice Are in the Air!'

I've been going through a little bit of a 'down' phase, which seems normal after the excitement of last week. The always difficult 'thing' about doing theatre is the radical change in routine it creates, from an intense period of rehearsal for weeks, then when the show is up, the routine changes to something else entirely. There are radical ups and downs. Further, there is that constant pressure one feels even on days when the show is not playing. 

Last year, I discussed all this with a therapist, as theatre has a rather 'bi-polar' trajectory. From the initial seed of a play, to the casting of the play (in this case myself) to the rehearsal process, (with its own ups and downs) to the opening night, (a high hard to describe if one lives through it and it feels good) to the run of the show, and then, the nasty down time when the show is over. I can describe the show days as all of this bundled into 'one day'. I used to have horrible 'downs' after each show would close, generally lasting for a week. I've noticed, however, that the longer I'm doing it the longer the depressions become. I'm not sure why. Its a difficult thing to prepare for. Because my form of alcoholism has always been 'episodic', it also played a huge role in this strange theatre system. When I was younger, I had to be careful not to have an 'episode' after a show had closed. I'm always the most vulnerable at this time. While I'm in the middle of a show, even though I struggle with temptation, I have always held on to a 'work ethic' of sobriety, and will not drink while I'm working. After you have memorized thirty eight pages of dense text, you cannot deliver it smoothly if you've been out drinking and killing your pain the night before. Its easy for me to understand the nature of the 'artist drinker', after weeks of prolonged intensity, if the artist has not developed alternative ways of dealing with the fact that something is 'over', its a pattern and a temptation that is difficult to avoid. It is definitely a 'bi-polar' existence, rife with mania and depression. Although I don't believe I'm 'bi-polar', I do believe that the reality of being a theatre artist can create a pattern that mimics this kind of behavior. I do believe, however, that I am prone to 'depressive episodes'. I love this quote, "Depression occurs when fantasy collapses in the face of reality." I think this pretty well sums up what happens. Because theatre demands an intense use of the imagination, and because it drives itself by the subconscious, it is indeed a 'fantasy parallel', and of course fantasy always collapses at some point.

I also believe in my case, there is a paradox that seems a lot like therapy, (because I usually do very personal work) but it is also 'taxing' on the psyche in other ways. Although I think it is ultimately 'good' to have this kind of therapy, there really isn't, I believe, a complete 'closure' on many things we go through in this life. 

I didn't have time to post the previous entry yesterday, so today is another day. Last night's show was pretty good, although after several days off it seems a 'warm up' performance. The good news is that David Fofi, (the artistic director of the theatre) wants me to extend the show an extra week and release a 'extended run press release'. This means he really liked the show. It is good for his theatre to have this show in his theatre. I also have hired an additional producer/publicist, and am already seeing a result of her work. The reservations are finally starting to come in. The other good news/bad news scenario is that now there is press coming on all three of the upcoming shows, with the LA Times coming on Sunday! Good for us if they like the show, bad for me because it increases the pressure. Still, I have the show down pretty well, and just have to make sure I'm resting and eating my rice and beans. The show continues to have wonderful unexpected twists and turns.  Tonight, there are twenty Australians coming, a result of a friend, Carla Werner who saw the show opening night and is now bringing 'Australia'. So, the ball is definitely on the roll. Tomorrow night, 'Backstage' is coming, which is the trade magazine much like 'Variety'. We are continuing to improve the show, and are excited about its future. 

Additionally, my older brother Gary came to stay last night, and with my mother coming Saturday, it looks to be a very 'full' weekend. I was also approached by two young actors who unbeknownst to me, having been doing one of my other plays, 'Under The Desert' in their acting class. I had given this play to David Fofi when I first started rehearsing and didn't give it another thought. He took it into his acting class. Well, these two young actors want to produce the whole play! We'll see what happens there, but all I know is that good things are continuing to happen. All just 'acts of faith', as I think about it, and I suppose a few years of living on the inside of a theatre. I'll make sure I continue to log in the news as it reveals itself... 


Gerry said...

Oh my goodness, all this news almost overwhelms me. All of this press coming! An extension of the show a week! I am so glad that your brother Gary got there. After I get back I will be talking to Dan.
Good heavens, I am so happy for you but I know that it is you in the middle of all this, with the success of this show riding entirely on your shoulders in performance. I will be praying for you! Mom

Cheryl said...

All of this is so exciting. It is such a great play, I want people to see it. You understand yourself so well in this process after so many years of living it. You may have to plan a different post play plan so the depression might be avoided or reduced. You are welcome to come and stay at my house in St. George while you transition to the next event. You can sit in the sun and talk to the dogs, go to the jam sessions with the local music group, sleep late in the room that makes you sleep and prepare for what comes next.

Grace said...

i love this post - i have a deep appreciation for your ability to avoid censoring reality.

i wish i could see the play but unfortunately, life has taken me in a different direction, literally....

hugs to the man.

LaRena said...

What a great post Raymond, and such exciting good news. I love the quote of depression coming when fantasy collapses into reality. Having dealt with the bi-polar syndrome forever it seems with sons and now a grandson, I have given the whole way of living and coping a great deal of thought and study. All to no avail it seems sometimes. It rears it's ugly head in all walks of life. I've always wondered if it helps to put labels on it. I am grateful that my sons have coped as well as they have but my heart hurts sometimes thinking of the great potential that can be lost along the way. Terry of course, lived the life of "quiet desperation." As a mother I have tried to be as strong and up beat as possible, as I am quite helpless to heal the hurt.I can only honor their journeys. I believe the great success that is coming your way at last, will enable you to cope with the down times without going the route of killing the pain with alcohol. It is so good that you have such a wonderful support system in family and friends. They have these wonderful hearts and much intelligence about the need to be there for you. In return you have brought much joy into the life of those you cultivate with entertainment and your openness. The willingness to share your experiences could be a huge life line to those who struggle with the collapse of fantasy. May these days following your suburb accomplishment be bright. Memorizing 38 pages of intense text is a gargantuan task, to say nothing of all the rest of the work to bring forth your heart's desire of telling the BIG story and singing the songs. My blessings are with you.

Chuckh said...

Good stuff Raymond. I am happy for you. You've done the work. The work is what gets you through. The work is honed with a masterful hand, guided by the type of skill only total immertion can bring.

DB said...

Raymond, I know actors who have activities that are unrelated or partly unrelated to what they do, fishing, sightseeing, museum visiting, banjo playing. With me it was drawing ar geting into trouble with women. Things that took one out of the theatre and away from the play. It's a matter if identity, I think. When we work, there are so many subtle claims on us, they attach themselves to us like motley and we wear them. One hs to shed skins now and then.

Depression comes with. The script looks huge, rehearsals are frustrating, opening is dangerous and invigorating and closing is death. But the light is that you don't have to play the same role in the same play for the rest of your life. Imagine if you were in a bad play with a production you hated. How much would you look forward to closing night?

I was in a fairly long run once where eventually they posted a closing notice every Tuesday evening and a week's extension every Saturday evening. It was cruelty, but we just shrugged our shoulders and played it fore as long as they let us.

Congratulations on your success. Live in the today. That's what theatre is.

And thank you again for your great comments on my journal. DB

~*~Travelling Gnome Jossi~*~ said...

It was so nice to see you again. You look wonderful! It was also a nice feeling when you winked, letting me know you saw me in the audience on friday. I tried to stay out of direct visual space, but you still found me! <3333333! I wish i could have stayed longer in L.A. to catch up with you, but work calls. :/ I admire your ability to pack up your pick up truck and go, just as along as you have a good coat and a sleeping bag. Lastly remember, a part of Ophelia lives in the hearts of every woman you come across. It's keeping the separation of sanity from insanity that makes our lives an interesting challenge.
-- Love bug.