After a few year's hiatus from acting, I've made the move to start up again. I knew I would. I stopped acting to concentrate on playwriting, but knew at some point that I'd start again. I do love it, but the love affair has evolved.
A month or two ago I read a part in a staged reading, and a few weeks after that I acted in a ten-minute play where I was on-stage for maybe five minutes. I figured I'd start back in a production where I couldn't cause too much damage. And I loved it, though before making my entrance I was more nervous than I usually am. I think things went well. But just like my headshot shows a marked difference in my external appearance, the internal artist has radically changed, too.
Now, I don't have this burning desire to act like I used to, or at least not like I now have this burning desire to write plays. Acting has transformed into more of a way for me to continue exploring the grand metaphor called the theater. It gives me a way to enter a space and look around, if that makes any sense. More than ever I loved the table work we did for the little ten-minute play. I loved uncovering the layers of the work, discovering the avenues my character could pursue. And I think I now can perform that part of the character preparation better with the education I received to be a playwright. Right there I think is evidence of the combination playwright/actor that's in me now, a more complex theater artist than just a playwright or just an actor. And it was rewarding to bring that character to life in front of an audience.
I certainly don't live or die over getting a part like I might have before, sinking into despair if I wasn't cast, my feeling of self-worth taking a hit like the Titanic into the cold waters of depression. And I certainly don't get depressed when a show is over. I know this because I didn't when I was still acting regularly. I was happy to get my life back, and get caught up on laundry and bill-paying.
I'm not sure I'm going to be one of those multi-threat theater artists like some people are. In Boston, John Kuntz, Melinda Lopez, Steve Barkhimer, Heather Houston, Rick Park, and Ryan Landry all come to mind--I know there are plenty others, forgive me for leaving you out--and are all writers who have also proven exceptional on stage. I still audition horribly, as some members of the Lyric and the Huntington have seen recently. I do better with cold readings, with a fellow actor to play off of. But that's not how most theaters audition, and it's a skill I'll need, like knowing how to punctuate to write. Still, I'm grateful to get a call to audition, and happy to just do the best I can, once again, always considering everything done in the theater as a learning experience.
I think it doesn't hurt playwrights to be as familiar with as many aspects as the theater as they can. The more we know about how theatre works and how the different theatre artists work, the better we can write those blueprints for plays. Act, direct, design and build sets, make costumes. It gets us thinking of other aspects besides dialogue. I know when I write, if I'm actually thinking about the stage or a particular stage versus a world, I tend to see things from the point of view of the actor. Stage right is to my right. Down is in front of me. And so on. I am at the center of the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree world that surrounds me that is the stage. I don't know if that helps or hinders me. It just comes from being on stage.