Third rehearsal for The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever. I spend an hour beforehand going over the scene I think I’ll be working on tonight. Of course, that is not the scene I’ll be doing. This worries me. I hate being unprepared. I tell Paul (the director) that I didn’t prepare for this scene and he tells me that’s fine. But I’m already getting in my head.
We’re doing the last scene of the play, which is with my character, Janet, and another character, Jim. It’s a quick scene with pretty simple blocking.
Jim is played by Matt. He introduces himself to me and we shake hands. Paul sees this. “Oh, you guys haven’t met yet. That’s cute.” In our last rehearsal, Matt and I were on stage and in the same scene together, but there are A LOT of people in that scene, and we have dialogue and everything, but we never actually met. Which seems weird, but we only have two hours to work so there isn’t much room for small talk.
So it’s just me, Paul, and Matt. We go through the scene a few times. Paul has notes for me every time. I need to be more powerful. I also need to be super likeable and happy. And I need to move more. Be physical. “Your movement needs to match your words.” This is definitely a struggle for me. I’m used to film. Less is more. And also, I just get self-conscious with lots of movement. That sounds weird but I don’t know how else to say it.
We go through the scene again and I’m still not getting it. I’m struggling with being mean and happy. I actually say that out loud. “I don’t want you to be mean. Or bitchy.” Isn’t it interesting, that when he tells me to be powerful, I go straight to mean and bitchy?
Then he starts telling me how important my character is. “She’s our only female. She’s a lead. Well, Moremi (another female cast member) is, too, but… no, this is the last scene of the play. You’re the love interest. You’re the ingenue.” As he’s saying this, a lot of things are going through my head.
One is, fuck. Get your shit together, Lindsay. You need to step it up right now. Two is, yea, damn right, you’re a lead in this show. How fucking awesome is that? Three is, and this is the one really taking over my thoughts, that as Paul is talking to me, I can read his mind, and what he’s actually thinking is, shit, why did I cast this girl? This was a mistake. She can’t do this.
In general, I’m starting to become more aware of my insecure thoughts. And how I always jump right to the worst case scenario and believe that to be true. Which, when I really think about it, is a little crazy. I try to block it out and pump myself up. You can fucking do this. This character is so you. Just be confident and do it.
Granted, having the script in my hand and not being off book yet is giving me less confidence, but that’s no excuse.
Do the scene again. When it’s over, Paul seems excited. “Yes! That was it. That was so good.” Then he prefaces what he’s about to say. “Listen Lindsay, I’m blunt. I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. When I get on actors, it usually sets something off in them and gets them to do it. So what I’m about to say is going to be blunt.” I just stare at him, bracing myself, but also knowing that he can’t tell me anything worse than I’m already thinking. And also, I was a Division I athlete. I’m very used to people telling me the opposite of what I want to hear. Bring it.
“The other day, when you rehearsed with Moremi (Moremi and I have a scene with just the two of us), you scared me. But then I gave you the direction and you got there. And it was great. And again today, you scared me.” Now I laugh. In embarrassment. “But then you got there. So you can do it. Just do it as soon as you walk in the room. Don’t wait to get there. Because like, for an audition…. nevermind.”
I know where he was going with his last remark. He was about to talk about having only one chance to make an impression, but he stopped himself because he doesn’t have time to coach me about my acting outside of this play. And also, it’s not his responsibility. And also, he already made his point. I get it.
We finish up and Paul leaves the room so it’s just Matt and me. “You OK?” Yea, I’m fine, I just want to be able to do what he wants me to do. “Yea don’t worry about it. Just let it roll off the shoulders. You obviously can get there.” I appreciate what he’s doing, trying to make me feel better. But I really don’t feel bad. I’m not sure exactly how I feel.
I mean, now I do.
I love bluntness and honesty, so I very much appreciate Paul’s approach to directing. We don’t know each other very well yet, so he might be trying to be a little careful to gauge my response (very similar to coaching an athlete, so I get it). I’m also still trying to feel him out as a director and give him what he wants.
Normally, I would think about the negatives of his comments, that I need to be better. That I need to bring it from the get-go. That I shouldn’t need him to direct me to get where I need to be. But the positives are way more helpful. I am capable of this role. Paul cast me for a reason. Because I’m good, and I can do this. Also, I take direction well. Which is a great note.
So, moving forward, I’m excited. I will bring this character to life and make her awesome. And Paul will be proud.