I woke up to two missed calls the morning of June 8th. One was from my best friend who was apologizing for attending Beyonce’s concert without me. (Clearly unacceptable.) And the other was a call from Marci Skolnick (Stage Manager) to inform me that I would need to perform Stacey Yen’s track as her understudy for the second preview of AS YOU LIKE IT.
A surge of exhilaration ran through my body. I called my friend and jokingly scolded her for cheating. As we were wrapping our convo, I told her I had to get ready mentally to go on and then we hung up the phone. Then it sunk in: I’m going on. And I’m terrified.
I was mostly off-book for Stacey’s track at this point and had an idea of her blocking, but the actuality of doing it made me panic. What if I messed up? What if I went up on a line? What if I ran into someone because I messed up her blocking? What if I couldn’t drive the golf cart?! All these questions raced through me at once and I froze. But then, I took a breath. I realized that if something goes wrong it does not make me the worst actor or artist. The show will go on, just as life itself goes on.
I also think a spirit of gratitude helped me in full preparation. An actor and dear company member of mine had to leave for a family emergency and needed support. I suddenly became grateful for the ability to support and carry the spirit of her character in this wonderful story. I became grateful for a company whose main focus is to share the best story they can. I became grateful to be surrounded by artists with such heart and a giving spirit.
(On top of this, seeing the amazing Kimberly Chatterjee take on Stacey Yen’s track in MACBETH like a champ was inspiring in a way that kicked my butt into gear, for sure!)
Repetition is important for me. I ran lines like a crazy person, aiming to repeat them at the least 30 times a day. Especially in a situation like this, muscle memory is very important for me. Once again, the spirit of ensemble was alive and well. Everyone was so willing to help! Almost everyone in the cast at one point came up and offered to run lines, blocking, or answer any questions I had. They were extremely supportive and that made a world of a difference.
When it was time to go on I was still afraid, but more than that fear was the exhilaration, the excitement to play with my fellow ensemble! We do this already, but now I was a different piece to the puzzle and it was fun to change shape!
It was so great to be supported by all of the HVSF company members. I think the fact that both performances were previews [a set of public performances that precede the official opening of a production, allowing the director, designers, and players a chance to refine their work] gave way to an uncertain energy that any show has when it first opens in front of an audience for the first time.
So, old or new, everyone was on their toes.
I will say though, there was a moment when I jumped in on Kurt Rhoads’s line. Now, as an actor of such success and high caliber, he easily could have scolded me, made me feel bad, or stupid. But the first thing he did – the second we walked off stage – was to pull me aside and tell me about a time where something similar happened to him with a very well known actor. It was so comforting, in a moment when I was mortified, to have Kurt comfort me as if to say, “hey, it happens to the best of us.”
The weather faired well for my two performances. It was hot, but there was no crazy wind (as in Kimberly’s spooky MACBETH appearance). I messed up, the show went on, and I pressed on.
Ultimately, this experience taught me a lot; lessons that I am far from mastering but am just now beginning to incorporate into my daily life as an artist: Preparation. The importance of an ensemble. And love of play. HVSF has validated those things I hold dear as an artist and I am excited to see what the rest of this summer brings and teaches me.