A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I would stage-manage her production of “Disrupted” that is making its debut in the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year. I agreed to help her out, thinking that it might be nice to get back into some hardcore theatre. (Hardcore theatre is the kind that comes with scripts, blocking, rehearsals, tech rehearsals, etc). I regularly participate in soft core theatre, aka improv, but it’s been years since I’ve been part of a play. Since I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television this isn’t really a surprise, but it did come as a little bit of a shock to realize how much I had missed this.
I went to college at the University of Northern Colorado and graduated with a degree in Theatre with an emphasis in Directing. One would think that it would be obvious to me that I enjoy my time in a theatre. I grew up participating in school plays, spent my summers in the city wide Summer Musical and could often be found forcing choreography to a Gloria Estefan song on my sister in the backyard. How is it possible that I simply forgot about this side of myself?
Last week I attended the first rehearsal of “Disrupted”, a touching drama about two sisters who must reconcile the fact that one of them was “rehomed” at the age of 14. An affluent family adopted Abigail from Korea as a baby. Her sister, Harrison was born when she was 7. When their father died, Abigail was sent away to live with her teacher. The girls are brought back together when their mother dies and in an attempt to right her mother’s wrong, Harrison wants to give her sister half of the inheritance that she was left. The play navigates many questions that the process of re-homing a child leave unanswered. Did Harrison know what happened to Abigail? Why didn’t she ask about her? Did their mother not love her?
As I sat in that theatre and readied my pencil to write blocking notes, I was whisked back to my days at UNC in Greeley, when we were forced to create prompt books for the one act plays we would direct as our final projects. Prompt books are one of a director’s tools where you block the entire play, verb every single line and essentially know what prompts every decision you will make as a director. It’s very useful but its also incredibly time consuming. I was reminded of afternoon rehearsals we would hold in Norton Hall, where I would attempt to seem knowledgeable and we’d walk that fine line of classmate/ peer and friend/ director that every student in a student production must navigate.
Sitting in that theatre with the writer/ director Mary King buzzing around me, checking sight lines, and gently guiding her actresses to discover the nuances of her written word I was struck with the intimacy of a stage performance. Most notably, the intimacy of this performance, in which the theatre can only seat 50, 55 with the added 5 seats on the stage floor; the entire play takes place in one room of this gigantic mansion. Its such a useful tool to hold the play to one location, one tight space, that limits the movement of the actor and also forces the characters to be intimate with one another in a way that they haven’t been in 20 years.
In college these were my favorite productions. When I was a part of Marat/Sade my freshman year and got to play a member of the insane asylum, I remember my heart racing as members of the audience filtered in to see our show in a tiny black box theatre and we, members of the insane asylum were already on the stage, living our lives. The audience was immediately thrust into our environment, our lives, our crazy, whether they were ready for it or not. Bless my family, they were not ready to see this, not ready to watch their accomplished older daughter/sister act like a crazy person, writhing around on the ground, with her fellow actors being insane. Nor were they ready to watch the Marquis de Sade be vile and disgusting, sexual and in your face, but hey, THIS was why I came to college to pursue theatre, right? Okay, it may not be why, but the feeling, the thrill, the experience that we all had as a cast, I remember ALL of it, and that IS why I went to college for theatre. To make people feel.
It’s struck me lately that I have not really been feeling my feelings, feeling my life, my body, my . . . everything. This may get a little woo-woo for a minute, but stick with me. When pursuing an acting career, one must develop a thick skin. When pursuing it in Los Angeles, where there’s this insane bubble of insanely beautiful people, one must develop rubber for skin. When pursuing an acting career when you’re not the socially, acceptable norm for a woman in film and television, you know, a size 2, (zero preferably) with a rocking body, but instead you’re an average American female, size 8-12 (I fluctuate), one must develop a tortoise shell to deflect all of the negativity, the judgment, the no’s or one could quite possibly go insane.
I’m having an epiphany with you my dear readers as I write this, but is it no wonder why I lost touch with my actual feelings? Multiple years of pursuing this career in film and television, it’s no wonder. Right? Not to mention the fact that the feelings become so much more internal, unable to be expressed through movement because the camera is literally so tight that if you move, you’ll be out of the shot. I’ve been grappling with myself, wondering why I had lost touch with this ability, one that’s so important when acting and I think we just stumbled upon it. whilst pursuing this career I built my shell so well, I forgot to make it removable so I could access my feelings.
Phew. That was intense. Thanks for allowing me to find that aha!
All of this to say, that I’ve really been enjoying my foray back into my past life, where we spend an afternoon creating a world for people to peep into. You should definitely come check out, “Disrupted” in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. There’s a preview on Sunday June 5th at 7 pm and 4 shows, June 10, 11, 17 & 18th at 8 pm. All shows are at the Underground Theatre in Hollywood. You can purchase tickets here: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3764?tab=tickets
Disrupted is written and directed by Mary Anna King. Starring Sarah Navratil and Catherine Kresge. Understudied by Madeline Merritt. Produced by Teo Sajor. If you want to help fund our show visit. https://www.gofundme.com/disruptedtheplay