Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'Its All in the Timing, and There Really is a Time For Everything''

Last night, I didn't sleep very well. Part of it was not having a book that I could wrap my mind around. I finally decided to tackle Proust, 'Remembrance of Things Past', and trust me, the first thirty pages is just a confusing mess, but this afternoon, it started to make a little more sense. I didn't have television in Boulder, and don't have one here, (which is actually great) so, yes, I'm tackling those writers I haven't read yet. I always have some trouble reading the French writers, except for Genet and Camus, whom I both love. I tried reading Rimbaud, and my eyes glazed over. I love reading the Irish, except for Joyce, which I probably won't be able to read in this lifetime. And of course, my favorite tough writers, The Russians...

The other disturbance of my sleep is my brain working overtime to figure out how to get audiences, which, much to my surprise, doubled in size tonight, which I was grateful for--many of them college students writing papers. I love it when these students come to see a show, so many of them 'have to' do it, so its a challenge to connect with them before 'their eyes glaze over'. I was reading an article today in the paper about how the 'lecture' aspect of teaching is evolving into 'interactive' teaching, students now have so many things happening to them all the time, and so many sources of information, its difficult to hold them with a lecture. One almost has to be an entertainer anymore to hold the attention of the contemporary student. When you are doing a one person show, the audience becomes the actual 'live' characters that you 'work off', in this show, I break the fourth wall constantly, and am always trying to engage members of the audience. This is tricky, because so many audience members don't want to be engaged, which I understand. The material has to take on a non-threatening style, story telling that is more conversational and with some ease. Even in a contemporary culture, most can relate to 'story telling' as a viable form of entertainment and information. After the show, a young woman came up and ask me if I would 'autograph' her program. It was thrilling for me to see this young woman so excited about the play. I only mention here that she was African-American to illustrate how this show does have universal themes that cross any cultural barriers. She related her own experience with her father. All humans can relate to the never-ending search for a father.

The theatre reviewer from the Austin Chronicle was also there. And as always, most reviewers leave immediately after the show, and most of them show no emotion or reaction to what they've just witnessed. I had a pretty good show tonight, even though there was a few places I got tongue tied, with the words not coming out as easily. I've tried to analyze why this happens, tonight I spend and hour and a half doing 'prep' work, speeding through, going through all my physical motions, warming up my voice, doing stretch and breathing work, and most importantly, warming up my tongue and my face. Yes, I know that it sounds strange, but if you were to open your mouth as far as it will open, most will feel a 'pinching' in the jaw, and the jaw in doing theatre, (especially if you are the only actor) is an important muscle and bone to warm if you are spitting out difficult passages of a monologue. The same thing with the tongue. I have noticed that if I get my tongue loose, (it will also pinch) it helps when I get to places where I have to be fast with the words or especially clear. Still, even with all my preparation, there were areas I failed to get things clear. Its very difficult to finish a show and feel like it was flawless. Some nights, its just going to feel like you've entered a very challenging river with your kayak, and you don't know where the river will spit you out. The other element of preparation is the body. For example, Sunday night my body felt rigid and 'forced' in my actions, staccato and very 'up and down'. Tonight, I was able to get to a place where my body was responding in a more relaxed form, which puts the audience at ease. When I'm forcing my body to work, it frightens the audience somewhat, which although it is still a theatrical experience, its not what I'm trying to achieve. So, two critics down, and one to go.

Its almost eleven thirty, (at night) Dominican Joe's closed at midnight, so I will share one more story with you. Yesterday, I wrote about timing and location in my blog. This morning, I was in a funk about everything, but was resolved in my thinking that I may just have to go through a 'weird and down day'. I had no energy, went for my walk feeling like I couldn't finish it, and spent the morning in anguish about the total sum of my life, (do you have those days?). Oh yes, the story... Last Saturday, I was in this same coffee shop, I think blogging. I always take my watch off before I write for two reasons. One, it gets in the way of the edge of the computer when I write, and two, I time myself to get at least two hours of writing at each session. I digress. Saturday, I noticed that my watch was missing, and of course my first thought was that Baby, (the dog) had taken it somewhere and chewed it to bits which she is perfectly capable of doing. So, for several days I lived without a watch. Early this afternoon, I came into Dominican Joe's, and thought, well maybe I'll ask them if anyone turned in a watch. I went to the counter and ask the girl behind the counter if anyone had turned in a watch. "Oh My God," she said, I just threw that watch away five minutes ago..." There my watch was, on the top of the trash heap. "I'm sorry, she said, but we get so many things piled up, we can't keep all of them..." "I understand," I told her, and was not only ecstatic about getting my watch back, but was absolutely amazed at the 'timing' of the 'getting'. Because it was a watch, and connected with 'timing', I became convinced all afternoon that the universe was organizing the timing, and I was not to anguish about it. I mean, four days, and I came upon getting my watch back at that exact five minutes, coincidence? I'll let you judge for yourselves, but I was there, and again, one of those 'little amazing happenings' that you are saying to yourself, "No one would believe this story... or at least not the way it happened to me..." After all, I knew all the nuances that should have kept me from ever seeing that watch again. I suppose my point would be that if you have yourself 'warmed up' to notice these strange little happenings, they can lift you out of any 'funk' you may have, and set you back on the road to believing that, no, your timing is very good right now... trust it, I will not forsake you... Okay, back to the river with my kayak. The moral of the story is... we really have only marginal control over the 'timing' of anything, so we might as well trust in the universe to provide us with some surprises, and in fact, expect them, and they are all around us... goodnight.


Gerry said...

I sense when there is something waiting for me on the computer, and I absolutely cannot sleep until I get up and see what it is. I checked everything and then last your blog, thinking you would not have posted, but you did! And this long entry was what got me right out of bed. As there was a whole lot to it, more illumination of what it is to do theater and in the details, the experience becomes quite clear, the students, the identification with a missing father, and the timing of picking up the watch, how well we can find something the universe has waiting for us if we trust our instincts to heed the 'sign.' And you learn the art of stage speech as I have been learning the art of talking on camera, stuff like that. I think you worked hard enough to come up with a way to find an audience that it worked! And will again. Every person becomes precious when they are fought for, which is how art should work, reaching person by person which must be the best way to build a theater experience for people.

caroline said...

yes, I've had a lot of questioning days, especially lately. And also some amazing right-on-time perfect miracles. You've got it perfectly right, one does need to expect them. It all flows so much more easily then. thanks for a beautifully described day in the river.

p.s. the verification word for this comment is: sup x man. heh.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

Weird how things happen.. It sounds like you are picking up some audience as you go along. You seem to be gradually fitting into your place in time.(watch)
Relax and let it happen!

DB said...

Hi Raymond, great words about great things. I appreciate what you wrote about keeping your tongue and body in shape, warming them up. I have worked with a lot of actors who will spend so much time and energy warming themselves up emotionally and psychologically that when they get out there they are inarticulate, tired and boring.

Glad to read that your show is up and running. I've been in the jungle of computer nightmare for 6 weeks so I haven't been able to catch up with you. I'm back.

Some years ago I was doing a comedy. A friend asked me how it was going and I replied "They make me go out on the stage in front of everybody and expose my comic timing." I think timing is one of those invisible things handed out to some people buy nature.