Closing THE TENNESSEE WILLIAMS PROJECT

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Man & Woman in “Talk to Me Like the Rain” – with Txai Frota
Photo by Billy Cunningham, 2014

 

Goodbye, Tennessee Williams Project, I miss you already!  I had such an incredible time working with Bedlam Ensemble, director Daniella Caggiano and my alternating cast mates Txai Frota and Giorgio Panetta at the beautiful and historic Gene Frankel Theatre.

If I had to sum up what acting lesson this production taught me, I would say that I learned how important it is to TRUST YOURSELF as an actor.  To paraphrase Miss Ru, if you can’t trust the decisions you’ve made so as to inhabit a character more fully, how in the hell are you going to trust somebody else?  This production put me in a very interesting position – during the run, we learned that the “Man” to my “Woman” was only available for half the performance dates and odd rehearsals.  Another incredible actor stepped in for the remaining performances, but I remember consistently showing up to rehearsal and wondering who my husband would be that night.  It was my first experience working on such an intimate scene, and to be honest, I felt like I wasn’t knocking it out of the park.  The dynamic was different with each actor, blocking was different, and I had a hard time finding my connection to the actors playing “Man,” because my “Woman” relied so much on the relationship between the husband and wife.  The piece ends with a climactic monologue from my character, and after beginning the piece a little unsure, it felt like I was frantically trying to find my footing and building the piece for the sake of it, not actually relaying genuine emotion.  I’d also like to point out that I was working with extremely talented actors — this reflection is on my work alone.

Here’s where I realized my mistake – the beauty and power of Talk to Me Like the Rain (and much of Tennessee Williams’s work) is that there are moments when characters crack open and reveal their fantastic interpretation of the mundane.   “Woman” doesn’t need to be touched in a certain way so that she is reminded of a certain thing and can make the progression to the end of the monologue – she is the monologue, she has carried it inside of her throughout the piece.  Like many of Williams’s female characters, “Woman” contains a beautiful instability that can’t be satisfied by someone else – especially not her husband.  I had considered this perspective when I first started working on the scene, but was more attracted to finding the commonality of wife/girlfriend-hood in “Woman”.  It took the real-life events surrounding the production to get me to rediscover what the character was really about.  Once I had recharted the scene, I was able to react truthfully to whatever my scene partner was doing, while still taking the monologue to its natural, climactic ending.

Is this something I should’ve found on my own, no matter the circumstances?  Yes.  I’m an imperfect perfectionist and that is incredibly frustrating. But this was the lesson I learned -trust.  Trust in your own ability to make the character everything she needs to be, and trust the support your scene partners are giving you through their actions and dialogue.

In the end, I felt anything but tentative.  The scene never felt over rehearsed, flat or detached- I had no choice but to be completely in the moment.  My partners and I encouraged each other to play, and knew we were there for each other.   That support really made the experience for me, and I was able to get out of my head.