Five Hours

My alarm was set for 7:21 this morning, which is 14 minutes earlier than usual because it was still set from the morning before. I woke up at about ten after, turned my alarm off, peed and went back to sleep. I woke up at 12:20.

That means I overslept by five hours, which I’m pretty sure is a record for me.

You know you need sleep when you sleep that long. I slept, easily, twelve hours last night, the kind of sleep that happens when you are just so relieved to be on the far side of something you didn’t enjoy.

I have been careless in this blog before, I spoke out about being treated badly by a guy who was a peripheral friend of mine, and that guy found the blog and responded with extremely hurt feelings and I made a huge public show of making up with him. Within a year, I had realized that his disrespect of me, that inspired the initial rant, was a symptom of a larger pattern that would make it impossible for us to ever really be friends anyway, and I felt like I had sold out some on the apology.

So, despite the fact that no one I just got done working with is ever going to read this, let me start by saying some positive things. I have a deep and abiding affection for both the writer and the composer, both men I really adore, both men I would support in *any* endeavor. These are not just both extremely talented people, they are really kind and loving people. There is a great mutual admiration society between the three of us, and, even better, the show they wrote and which I was just in, is a really good show, one I really believe in and am glad I was in.

The cast was, to a person, fantastically talented. As in every cast, there will be some people you are closer to and some you never quite click with, but it was wonderful seeing them work their way through a very specific kind of theater and figure out all the best ways to make the show right. Without hesitation, for the musical I’ll be producing over the next year, I would call any one of them to come in and audition. Which may seem back handed but the truth is, I’m so used to being in shows with people I never want to work with again that it’s a miracle we got five people together who responded with kindness to one another.

If I heard of success coming the way of anyone in the cast, I would not only be extremely happy for them, but I would feel like that success was deserved. Each person in their own way had level of talent and diligence, matched with an inate kindness you don’t always get in the theater (especially music theater), so that if any one of these people suddenly got a major break, there would not be an ounce of jealousy in me, I would be overjoyed.

This same kindness and affection was shared by the entire creative staff. The design team was over-the-top in terms of excitement and kindness toward the cast and toward the project. I got a really nice email from the *set designer* after the show closed, thanking me for my work and for what I brought to the show.

That being said, I couldn’t be happier that the show has closed and would have to think long and hard before re-visiting it, should I be so honored as to be asked to be part of it again. It took me several weeks of rehearsal before I began to be aware of the feeling I was getting.

In the nearly twenty years that I’ve been doing live theater, I had to go back to the very beginning to find the level of mistrust and disapproval that I found, and it was then that I realized it had *never* happened to me in the theater. It was in class, in high school, when everyone would turn in their papers or hand in their quizzes on the summer reading, and I sat there hating myself because the teacher so clearly hated me. I was a terrible student, every single time I was in a classroom, I was a pretender, incapable of doing the work, uninterested in doing it well, and confused and bored by the laborious nonsensical hoops I had to jump through to please the people around me, none of whom were ever pleased by anything. Suddenly, I was in the same place.

I have never, in the course of being a live performer, been in a position where someone doing a show with me wished I was someone else. I have never felt that other people were *dissapointed* in what I was doing. I found myself, in this rehearsal process, looking around the room and going, “oh, ME? You’re talking to ME?”

The things we were asked to do in certain instances, places to hold our heads, parts of the stage to point our toes toward, and the endless mocking and looks of disgust, not just during rehearsal but even from the light booth during performances, would have been intolerable if they hadn’t been unfamiliar to the point of confusion. Once I, and some of my castmates, realized that we were barely being merely tolerated, (a shocking feeling given that we were all terribly talented people, willing to work for little money and understanding that no one involved with the show had any kind of cache or name and that the show would be seen only by children in a show we were doing for the love of theater), we, to extend the metaphor, began to feel like our mistress had gone mad.

I have always had demanding artistic collaborators, I don’t know if there has been a single show where I didn’t feel that thrill of trying to live up to the ideals set by the other actors or the playwright or even the *lighting designer* who wants a particular effect and you have to hit your mark and hold your head just so to get it, the theater is filled with people who want the best and ask it always of themselves. I have been cast in roles I could barely sing (“Superstar”) that I could barely dance (“Chorus Line” and “No, No, Nanette”) and in shows where I had to use every ounce of my acting chops (“Dirty Juanita” and, strangely, “Hunchback” come to mind) but I have never come home from rehearsal feeling as if I had been tolerated and disregarded.

It comes at a bad time, when I feel like I could just focus on writing music and plays. I have to remember that the audience was thrilled, I have to focus on what I could see in front of me during the shows instead of what I saw through my peripheral vision. What makes us actors, what, in part, drives us to be artists, is a need to communicate and be appreciated for that skill and the voices of a couple of unwitting detractors (unwitting because I’m sure they felt like they were being very nice) will sometimes drown out those of a hundred appreciative voices, and I need to remember the important voices to continue.

But I slept five extra hours today. These are five of the hours I’ve lost not sleeping over the last few weeks, and I’m glad to be out. I said in a blog some years back that if I could get back in, I wouldn’t complain, I would just bask, and it turns out I didn’t live up to that this time. I’m glad to be out.