It’s my second day off since I’ve been here, which seems slightly bonkers. The second week of rehearsal was much more exhausting than the first; maybe it’s because we’ve graduated from table work and are doing much deeper character work, maybe it’s because we’re doing a full run of the play each rehearsal, or maybe it’s because I got sick at the end of the week . . . oops. I’m using my day off to recuperate, do some of my own character work (digging through the script a bit more for character traits/quirks, researching bipolar disorder and stammering, finding deeper connections between my character and the other characters), and catching up on household chores (dishes, laundry, etc.). Quite the glamorous life!
There’s been a clear difference between the first week of rehearsal and the second, a distinct shift to the next level of work. I haven’t been able to do this level of character work in AGES, if ever. Being able to spend six hours a day in rehearsal – exploring freely and collaboratively – and then to spend several hours a night working independently on my own character . . . it’s so nourishing as an actor. Working at Portland Stage Company as a full-time professional actor honestly feels like a wonderful, hot, home-cooked meal after months of eating ramen in college.
One revelation I had this week was that from here on out, the majority of the audiences I see in front of me are not gonna have the FAINTEST clue who I am as an actor. This was so important for me to realize because for the most part, I’ve played to academic audiences (i.e. my high school or college), and they are made up of my peers, many of whom know me. So in college, I was always paranoid that some part of myself would appear on stage, rather than ONLY the character I was playing. I was afraid of any overlap, in case someone in the audience thought to themselves, “Oh, that was SO Matthew.” Well, with regards to the audience that is going to see Tribes, hardly ANYONE is going to know who I am, so how the hayballs would they know if a face I made or an intonation I used was “Matthew” or not? THEY DON’T KNOW ME!
This revelation made me think of a Johnny Depp quote I heard once (and I’m paraphrasing here), where he said that “you have to put a little bit of yourself into every character you play, because if you don’t, then it’s not acting: it’s lying.” So this whole last week I’ve really been trying to relax into the role; not obsessing over whether something looks too “Matthew.” If infusing a lot of “Matthew” into the character makes it more real and believable, then that’s what it takes. The audience isn’t going to know if I infused a “Matthew-ism” so that I could find the truth of the character; what they will notice, however, is if there is a lack of truth in the character I play.
What I’ll be focusing on in this coming week of rehearsals is finding that next layer of truth, the naturalness that will bring this character to life, into the lives of the audience. I have a lot of work to do, but it’s all work I want to be doing, so I consider myself lucky!