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"You're treating yourself like Draymond. You should be more like Steph." - Austin Dean Ashford.
Or at least, that's how I seem to remember it. I just remember my consciousness being in wax of wisdom when I heard him say that to me. His tone landed as equal parts encouragement and seer. Austin was one of a handful of invited guests in a closed rehearsal, and he stuck around after the show to impart some wisdom; Austin is a veteran of performing one man shows. Seriously, check out his website, it's amazing! And major love for all the other people who were generous with their time and feedback.
I'm currently in rehearsal for a play called Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, directed by Lisa Mallete. It's to open on September 17th at City Lights Theater Company. As you may have recalled from my previous blog post, I was there a few months ago helping share the play, VIETGONE. Vietgone is a play told with five actors, with three of the actors sliding into other roles to help tell the story. Every Brilliant Thing is written as a one-performer show; in keeping in line with part of its mission statement, "challenge audiences and artists alike through innovative concepts", Mallette has envisioned this show as a bi-lingual production weaving in ASL as a storytelling component. It's not her first foray into this dynamic approach. A few years ago I had a chance to watch CLTC's production of Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl and I was completely engaged with the story in a new and exciting way. EBT has me and fellow actor and ASL interpreter, Dane Lentz, sharing this story of (without spoiling it) a boy becoming a man who is sharing his experience of growing up with a depressed mother and its effects on their lives.
While the tone and topic are heavy, the play smartly builds in moments of levity which allow the team to embrace the production and its handling of the audience with care and gentleness.
Unlike other shows I've been a part of, the team has opted to bring in a small number of staff audience members to assist us through the rehearsal process. On one such night, I was ultimately inside of my head, actors you know this feeling all too well. That sense that you're never fully present, that you're rummaging through your brain space looking for the words that you've worked so hard committing to memory and coming up emotionally short in the storytelling. Oof. But this was important for me to know. Really important. It didn't make it any less easy to face myself afterward and reprimand my brain for betraying my trust. We know these words, Brain!
The feedback we received on that night was invaluable. This brings me back to what Austin Dean Ashford said, "You should treat yourself more like Steph". For those who aren't too keen on basketball and the Golden State Warriors, he (Austin) was trying to say that I should be kinder to myself. Allow me, the person, more grace. The burden doesn't have to be all on me. During the next rehearsal the following evening, I found a way to relax and ease into it and be more present. This was now a goal: find my way into this show's internal relaxation. Everyone has their own way and sometimes that changes from show to show. I found, that for this show, it was super important for me to create a space* just for me, that'll allow for whatever everyday activity or thought occupied my brain to dissolve and ease into the physical space. In some past shows, I've been able to go from street to stage, but this is an entirely different problem that requires a new set of solutions. *Mileage may vary.
I'd love to hear from you, what are some of the ways you like to create space for yourself to not feel so beat up before/during/after rehearsal (or show)? Please share it in the comment box below, it might be something other people who are on similar journeys can find useful.
One of the special things about this show (and there are many) is its ability to take the performer deep into the story and allow them to meet it where it counts to allow it to take its own life. There are many places throughout the play that allows for flexibility with names, moments, places, and things. This show marks my fifth production with City Lights Theater Company, one of a few throughout San Jose, but one that has seen my growth as an actor--from ensemble pieces like Coney Island Christmas to a solid six cast in Stupid Fucking Bird to EBT as a bi-lingual play presented in English and ASL. I hope to see you there! Be sure to subscribe to the mailing list for future updates and to get these blogs straight to your inbox. Keep Community!
Every Brilliant Thing
was written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, directed by Lisa Mallette
Running September 17th-October 16th, 2022. Performs Thurs-Sun
Show info and tickets: https://cltc.org/event/every-brilliant-thing/
City Lights Theater Company
529 S Second St, San Jose, CA 95112