Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Will things ever return to normal?"

So says the woman I play, who calls her husband on his cell phone. She does this because her husband has checked out of it all and gone to live in the stairwell of their building.

I like this couple; she is disturbed by his withdrawal from the world (and to an extent, her), but she understands him and loves him well enough to see that he's been happier now in the three days in the stairwell than he's been in years. So she brings him food and misses him and worries that he'll never come back, and talks to him at 2 am when she can't sleep for the worry that he doesn't want her any more.

He has taken to drawing the bricks in the stairwell, and pictures of his wife. The artist in me knows that the best way to see something is to draw it, to be forced to look at every line, every shadow, to be unable to overlook detail if I'm going to  render something faithfully. He tells her via phone that he feels closer to her than ever, and you believe it. It's a lovely scene, and I'm looking forward to getting it really honed.

There are two scenes from this play, and another  from another play, in which I play half of a middle-aged couple having a brief argument in a museum. My main scene is a two-person scene between a mother and her pregnant 18-year-old semi-estranged daughter. It's a long scene, and would be considered my "big" scene, but honestly I'm kind of over the whole trite Complicated Mother/Daughter drama. So I look at it as a good chance to practice nuance, and to make lines I don't really buy seem believable.  The woman playing my daughter is the playwright's daughter, who is in school in Wisconsin. We've had two readings together, over Skype. It's kind of hard, so I just practice my lines on my own. It's a fun kind of challenge. We'll rehearse in person in the next week.

By contrast, my phone call with husband in the stairwell is fairly brief, but I really love it.  The man playing my husband is much younger than I, but he has a nice deep voice and I like him in the part. We still need a little work, but I'm enjoying it.

Last Saturday we had rehearsal, and I was early, so I joined the production meeting at the restaurant across the street. The playwright's younger daughter, who is in 7th grade, was there. She began digging in her mouth and produced a piece of a tooth.

"Mom, it's loose, and I got a piece of it," she said.

I was glad I'd already finished my meal.

"It's slippery," she complained. "I can't really get it."

"Well, what you do," I advised her, "is to take a napkin and -- not at the table, but in the bathroom-- use it to grab the tooth."

Across the street at the theater I suggested I pull it for her. She thought it over.

"No, I'll have my dad do it."

"OK, but tell him that when he does it, he has to say 'Is it safe?'"

She's used to me being a little loopy, and she kind of likes it, so she didn't question my instructions.

Oh, and my husband's reply to my question, in the scene?

"No. But that's a good thing when normal was not so good."


karen said...

Interesting. I agree. Normal is not a great place to be when it is not good. But how hard for a person who really, only ever wanted normal, and would sacrifice what could really be great for it.

For me, the interesting thing about the mom/daughter angst piece would be working on the separation of ego between the two.

I remember how hard it was for my mom when my eldest sister hit her late teens and then married. My mom had never been much of a "mom" ... that sister played that role for me, which is why I think it was that much harder for mine. It got really messy when I, the third daughter of four, hit that age because I had always been very messy. But I was doing lots of therapy so I understood the concept of the process of the separation. It is on both sides so confusing, so painful, so scary. But when the relationship is toxic, it is truly treacherous.

My youngest sister also married to get out of the house ... interesting that the youngest and oldest felt the only way out was through taking on another.

My eldest sister and her daughter struggled through that period in a very different way than we -- my sister defended my niece through all her bad behaviours, and supported her, rather than lashing out, contradicting. I didn't agree with all of it, but I might want to do it more that way when my two girls hit those ages ... my niece has come out the other side a much more thoughtful, mature, lovely woman than I did.

Funny how your being done with it has just reminded me to NOT use my mom's way as the blueprint through motherhood. My girls are a long way from the whole separating years, but it is always good to have a game plan, eh?!

I wish I could be there to see the play ... it sounds like something I'd be happy to see ...

JC said...

I wish you could see it, too; Id love your feedback. I also had a complicated relationship with my mother, and other figures did stand in as mother for me, which I'm sure she resented. In the mother/daughter scene, Im fascinated that I understand both characters' failings and needs, and I can see that what each needs from the other isn't possible right then. In a way, they are kind of doomed, even though they don't want to be. The subject matter isn't want bothers me; it's that it's all played out in seven pages, which as we know can't do justice to the complexity of the situation. So it comes across (to me) as a neatly packed mother/daughter situation done for dramatic effect. I had my first in-person rehearsal with the girl playing my daughter, though, and it gave me hope that this will work. I think the show is going to be filmed; if so, I'll try to post it.

karen said...

whoops! I seem to be slow at catching your replies ... and I was looking for posts too! Ah well. You should see my crazy life right now. Right in the mother role, I tell ya!

I'll look forward to seeing the video. Then I can see the guy too ... ba ha ha ha ha !

It is funny how guys figure they can tell mother/daughter relationship stories, and in less then a full book too ... 7 pages ...

The most amazing thing about this weird motherhood thing that I found myself sort of accidentally (I never really worried about or needed for it to happen, though all three are planned) is how I relate newly to things on screen and stage. Holy cow. Part of it is where I'm at ... done enough therapy to live in the moment as much as possible and to actually feel feelings. Most of my theatre experiences (aside from monster-themed dinner theatre in Hong Kong in 1999) happened before I'd practiced having feelings, so I had a hard time feeling stuff onstage, or even when I watched others' work. Long story, slightly autistic, I'm pretty sure, but also some other drama (other peoples) which I chose to tune out of ...

Ahem. I ramble. I've been told not to stay up to late, so I'd better sign myself out.

The lengths I write, you'd think I consider myself a guest blogger ... but I don't. I just like a good conversation.


JC said...

I like your conversations.

karen said...

Thanks & write on ...