Sunday, December 9, 2018

Holiday Drama

I used to think depression around the holidays was a newer struggle for me, until a quick tour through old journals last December showed that it's one of my oldest traditions. This year I began strategizing early to head off, or at least minimize, the holiday blues. Back in September, I auditioned for my second community theater show this year, and to my surprise, I got a part!

Hurrah for intensive DRAMA THERAPY!

If you haven't seen the classic film Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart, well, you probably should. In keeping with my "Living Backwards" motto, I am playing a twenty-something single girl: Myrtle Mae. A stay-at-home-daughter, if you will! Myrtle Mae and her widowed mother have been cast on the generosity of her uncle (and his imaginary friend).

This 40's hairdo has been too much fun.
Harvey was the farcical creation of Mary Chase, a journalist from Denver who kept on writing stories of all kinds as she raised three sons with her news editor husband, and the play won her a Pulitzer during World War II. I love being part of plays written and directed by women. This one also happens to include relevant themes like mental illness, feeling trapped, loneliness, and male doctors not believing women. Not to mention the complexities of living with someone who has a "relationship" with an unseen entity!

"Play-acting" as the Puritans in The Witch of Blackbird Pond called it, has been a fun challenge and a very welcome distraction. Memorize lines? But, of course! Didn't I memorize entire chapters of the Bible once upon a time, to recite with my siblings, sometimes with coordinated motions? Every night I get to have angry outbursts and tearful meltdowns, speak sarcastically to my stage "mother", curse the invisible being who makes my life miserable, and despair of ever being found by a man who will be my ticket to a wider world.

Myrtle Mae with Aunt Ethel!
It's been strangely therapeutic to work with a team of no-longer-strangers to create two hours of living, breathing art that will no longer exist after today. Each performance is a dance as together we weave a tapestry of words and movements for our audience--painfully attuned to their sighs and their giggles, their gasps and their coughs; their guffaws energize us. Gently, subtly rescuing each other when one of us stumbles over a sentence or misplaced prop, we own our mistakes and do all in our power not to repeat them as moments of intensity under the lights alternate with stretches of backstage boredom.

The camaraderie of the cast conjures memories from my cultic past. The intimacy of sharing darkness, close spaces, eye contact (remember that one?), dressing rooms, inside jokes, script books, snacks, even bobby pins, with people one may only have known a few weeks is uniquely exhilarating...and exhausting.

Seeing how people look after each other has reminded me how each individual's success (or distress) directly affects that of the whole. Each person's contribution is valued, and supported. The show is an organism made of many individuals filling unique roles--each one vital and, at this theater, each one is a volunteer effort.

Tomorrow night, I will miss these friends. I will miss their kindness, their quirks, and their silly banter. I will miss the anxiety of stepping into a new scene and the sense of accomplishment of stepping out of one. I will miss the countdowns, the cues, these phrases that have finally begun to roll off my tongue when they are supposed to. Perhaps what I will most miss is having a professional coax my hair into victory rolls!

And you may catch me wearing white gloves and 1940's makeup at the Kroger from time to time, just for the fun of it.

In my PJs, learning my lines.