Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
I suppose every writer has their own personal rehearsal room quirks.
The cast of my one-act Padre, which was produced 15 months ago in the Callan, no doubt remembers my habit of compulsively swinging a baseball bat during rehearsals. The bat wasn’t a prop for the show — it was simply something I carried around in order to take some cuts between scenes. Now that I think about it, the reason for the ritual was probably because I had already chewed away what little bits of fingernails I had left on my hands.
You could say I’m something of a stimmer — a self-stimulator, as my Speech-language pathologist girlfriend constantly reminds (and teases) me. I have the compulsive urge to perform menial little tasks in situations of high pressure and anxiety. This includes (but is not limited to) pacing, nail-biting, playing with one’s hair, and pretending to hit line drives into the visiting team’s bullpen. There was a lot of anxiety surrounding Padre, which was my first play to get anything close to what resembles a real production. I was nervous. I was anxious. The stimming became a nightly sacrament as my doubts about the script caused every nerve ending in my body to become a live wire. Adrenaline shot through my veins like cannon fire night after night as I navigated the murkiness of my first production. It was tremendously exciting. It was tremendously scary.
Fast forward fifteen months and I’m a much different playwright than I once was.
The first couple weeks of rehearsals for Fifi and Hunter Forever! have seen the stimming at a minimum. This is because the anxiety has also been at a minimum, which is pretty strong evidence in support of the old adage: “experience is the best teacher.” Unlike before, I have a confidence in myself with regard to my place and purpose in the rehearsal room. I now possess valuable memories to serve as a roadmap instructing when and when not to turn. I’m also in possession of what I soberly believe to be a compelling and captivating script that I cannot wait to see brought to life.
I suppose the easy diagnosis is that I’ve found new ways to harness the butterfly-driven energy that comes in anticipation of a production. Because of this, there’s a new swagger in the step of your humble, young playwright. I attribute this growth to the lessons I’ve learned here at Catholic, as well as the experience of becoming ingrained in the Washington theatre community. My self-confidence and resolve has reached a level where I feel like I legitimately belong in the theatre. For someone who entered this program in 2011 as a relative newcomer to the dramatic form (and a convert from fiction, that wicked denomination!), I’d say that’s progress.
My fingernails are still a little raw, which means I’ve got a ways to go, but I can assure my Fifi and Hunter cast that they won’t have to worry about dodging foul balls anytime soon.
Fifi and Hunter Forever! will be performed in the Callan Theatre February 27, 28, and March 1 at 7:30 p.m. and March 1 and 2 at 2 p.m. Visit CUA Drama’s website for more information.