Thursday, April 30, 2009

Release Me

This morning I had a massage. I've been getting massages since I was 22, when I saw a flyer in the Smith College library, after a long day hunched over heavy books. Could it be true? Some random person would rub my back for an HOUR? Just because I gave her money? And I wouldn't even have to reciprocate?

That gal was very good, but our relationship took a turn. Let me explain. She was nine months pregnant when I met her, and her belly used to bump me from every angle while she worked on me. She also had an alarming way of whisking off the drapery and leaving all my personal bits exposed to the elements. Now I know that's a big no-no, but then I didn't know better. She asked me if I would babysit in exchange for free massage. I figured, how hard could it be? What the hell did I know? Clutching her paint brushes, she would kiss the baby (already giving me the stink eye from her bouncy seat) and head off to art class. Bless her heart. Now I know how much she must have needed that. But the baby would take one look at her retreating back and start up yowling in a fashion that didn't cease until her mother appeared, two hours later. By which point, I would have cried a bit, too, and completely lost any sense of compassion for that snot-nosed, puffy pink amplifier. Her mother would look at me suspiciously, then back at the tiny slits where her child's eyes had once been, and I'd just know she thought I'd been beating the little one with a blunt object the whole time she'd been gone.

When I finally got around to taking those "free" massages," I'd hear the dad wrangling the little screamer upstairs, and I'd stiffen up. As soon as I shut my eyes, I'd envision myself getting blamed for the colic or separation anxiety or whatever the hell was making that baby scream. When I vanished from their lives, I was still owed two massages. Damn!

I've gotten a lot better at asking for what I need since then. Today, for instance, I told the gal that I didn't want any of that crazy karate chopping she finished with last time. Only I didn't use the word "crazy." She was gracious about it. And from the moment I slid under the soft sheets and plushy blankets and felt the warmth of the heated table on my stomach, I couldn't stop myself from sighing. The edge of her hand on the guitar-strung space between my shoulder blades was like a little voice whispering in my ear: "It's going to be alright. Stop fighting everything. Just give in."

And what might that little voice have been talking about? Readers, it's been an emotional week for me. Since I've become involved with the theater group I've mentioned before, people have said "Sam, you are so brave! Putting yourself out there in front of an audience!" But I know better. It might be brave for them, but not for me. I live for this stuff. But this week I realized that I am a bit brave, for a different reason. I am not very evolved emotionally. I have more than enough defensiveness, shame, guilt, inferiority complexes, petty jealousy and wounded inner child to go around. So it's not the acting part that's scary for me. It's not the stripping naked in front of strangers and letting them see my raw inner core that's in any way difficult. It's getting to that point without suffering a little soul death from a lifetime of festering neuroses, who rear their little heads to taunt me with my worthlessness at every turn.

Wow. I'm a bit melodramatic, aren't I? Which makes me a good fit for the theater world. It also makes me ripe for being raked with the flaying combs of my issues for a long time before I ever see an audience. I have just auditioned for my third show, and it's been hard for me each time. On the last show, there were nights I was close to tears when I called David from the car on the way home from rehearsal. Everything was constant change and chaos and challenge to my sense of order, and succumbing to the madness was like closing my eyes and diving off a cliff. In the end, I gained something from that. Dare I say, I triumphed over my demons? There. I just did.

It's going to be harder this time. Readers, I don't want to wear the colored coat of falsity so I won't start in with the self-affirmations yet. Here are the facts. I auditioned. I thought I did okay. It was hard to tell, really. I read for a lot of random things; basically, I did what I was told. I didn't really have much information about what I was auditioning FOR, but none of us did. And now that the dust has settled and I've been assigned my roles (confusingly, they were casting for three shows at once) I discover that both of them are verrrrrry small. I'm talking TINY. I'm talking, the first one is supposedly in a one-act play, but that "play" is less than 10 minutes long. We won't have a theater run--we'll perform twice at a local festival. I don't have many lines, and the lines I have seem a bit pointless. The second role is an outdoor festival type of thing, and seems quite fun...for the dozen or so men who have parts in it. There are only three women in the cast; only one has lines to speak of. I am not her. My part doesn't even have a name--I am "Second Gypsy." To add insult to injury, the powers that be have created Third Gypsy out of thin air--and I have a feeling she'll be eating my lines for breakfast. Of which I have, I believe, three.

These two endeavors will take my acting career through September. That's four months. And you know what else will be happening during that time? A big ol' avant-garde, award-winning, controversial full-length play by a famous playwright with juicy stuff like amesia, stroke victims, schizophrenia, guns and puppets. That I read for. And didn't get cast in. My friends are in this show, and I'm sure they'll do a bang-up job with it. I look forward to seeing it. But what I really want right now (here comes the petty jealousy and wounded inner child) is to BE IN IT. At the moment, I am obsessed with this fact like it's a mad crush. It fills my head at inappropriate moments. Perhaps this is the part of that process I mentioned where I bust out of my chrysalis and become a newly-winged diva. I don't know. But at the moment, it doesn't feel good.

In my last show, I played two of the greatest roles for women ever written for the stage. Now I'm a whiner who won't recycle, or somesuch. And Second Gypsy. (I'm definitely having T-shirts made.) I hear that in real life, people often don't get what they want, and they learn to live with it. So I suppose that's what I will do. But I am fervently willing myself to a place where I embrace the process, and let it work me over, you know, so I CARE what I'm investing my time in. Today when I took Jarrah to the library, I looked up "group therapy" in the on-line catalog (my first character is in group therapy, and our director suggested we find out about it.) That felt happy for a minute or two. I like to feel useful, to invest in something. And I realized that's what I'm going to have to find a way to do for the whole business this time. I have to find a way to invest. It's just that I'll have to keep playing badminton with my issues while I do it.

I don't usually share how acting makes me a psychic mess (well, I know a few of you would beg to differ) but this time I thought I could benefit from a vast pool of wisdom and, perhaps, a reality check or two, delivered delicately (please?) so as not to activate that defensiveness and shame I mentioned above. Care to join me in a great big virtual group therapy session? Maybe I'll find my character motivation somewhere along the way.


Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

"snot-nosed, puffy pink amplifier"You're always writing things like this that make me love you.

"It's not the stripping naked in front of strangers and letting them see my raw inner core that's in any way difficult."You're doing a nude scene? *snort*

Here's the best thing that I can think of to share with you about group therapy:

Dysenchanted is a short film by my friend, Terri Edda Miller. Check out Dysenchanted on YouTube.

Aunt LoLo said... totally lost me, but, you know what? I love you anyhow. You'll make a ROCKING 2nd gypsy. I actually have very fond memories of 2nd gypsies. My brother was in a high school play where he played a drunk. (Remember, he's a good little Mormon boy who's never touched anything stronger than Mt. Dew.) At one point, he "passed out" on the table on stage, and the 2nd gypsy pronounced her diagnosis ("scirrosis of the livah!")and....cue the curtain. It still makes me giggle. Seriously, of all the plays I ever saw my siblings in, that ONE moment stands out the most.

Go be that gypsy, woman!

Myrnie said...

As a card-carrying "psycho woman" myself (no joke- that was my name with a select few classmates, their choice) I'm just in awe that you're able to get up on stage like that. I think you're doing the best thing possible: move forward with what you love, be the best at what you're given, and darn the torpedoes!

erin said...

Ugh. I hate massages and I have horrible stage fright. Which is funny, cause I was in ten musicals through high school and college. I tried out for a part in a college play (first non musical) when I was pregnant with Rosey and they pretty much laughed at me. I never even attempted to do anything since, I don't even sing in public anymore. (Though around the house it's always showtime)

Jen said...

First let me say: that sucks, and I'm sorry.

Second: if anyone can take "2nd Gypsy" and turn it into a tour de force, it is you.

Third: while I am absolutely sure that you are a divine actress, you would be an even better *playwright.* You have a true gift! So don't forget that.

Miss J

Amanda said...

ohh I agree with the above comment. you should try playwriting! You are an awesome writer!

I am sure you will be a great 2nd gypsy!

Hang in the girl!

Stephanie said...

How about a great big virtual hug? Knowing how difficult this is for you, I almost felt guilty "wowing" the writing throughout.

Really, would that dissertation translate? You could write, direct and star in it!


katydidnot said...

i read this twice. once today and once a couple of days ago. and here's what i think.

a. why don't i get massages?
b. it was nice that you didn't say crazy karate chops.
c. you are totally brave.
d. the second gypsy will be remembered by the audience for the first time in that play's history.
e. you meant "stripped bare" metaphorically, right?

Anonymous said...

I think the bravest thing is keeping on putting yourself out there even when you know there's a possibility they'll say "no" or "second gypsy." :)

Any chance that the group/director is trying to share the roles around? If you had the biggest one for the women last time, maybe they don't think it's fair to give you the biggest ones every time?

And remember (this is what I have to tell myself all the time) it might just NOT be about you at all. Maybe it's SOMEONE ELSE's issue.

Enough words of wisdom? ;) lix