I don’t exactly know when it was that I wanted to be an actor, but it was probably sometime around grade school. Probably because my sister was doing a play and I wanted to be exactly like her. From 6th grade onward, I participated in every school play and musical. I never had a starring role, but I always got a character with a name and a few lines here and there. Most of the school plays were terrible. I was also in a teen acting troupe, and spent many summers at theatre day camps around Baltimore, which usually culminated in some sort of performance.
In college, I realized (well, in a sense) that acting wasn’t for me. Not that I shouldn’t act ever again, but that as a career choice, I had more options and better ones, options that would challenge me more and make me feel more fulfilled. I had a few bit parts here and there, but it wasn’t until I moved to Israel that I was in a full-scale production again, and for the first time, a lead – ironically, the one time that I wished for a smaller role since I was also dramaturging the show and doing stuff at the theatre during the day.
Tonight was the closing performance of Lights Out, the first play that I have appeared in since December of 2009 in Israel. It is an ensemble piece (as everything seems to be these days) but I spent the most time on stage, probably had the most lines, and was one of only two actors to appear in all three scenes. Lights Out was quite the journey, from volunteering for the role to getting formally cast to six weeks of rehearsals to six (well, seven if you count open dress rehearsal) performances. It was a huge time commitment. Mostly, I had a great time, but there was more than one night I went to bed angry/sad/upset (and on one occasion, didn’t even make it home before bursting into tears) and a lot of general frustration. I know I frustrated a lot of people, and though I try not to let stuff get to me, sometimes I got frustrated with others as well. Hopefully I made more friends than enemies among the people in the cast, but seeing as I probably won’t see many of them again until next semester, I guess their reactions to seeing me again in January will be all I need to know.
I had to sacrifice a lot for this show. I really, really wanted to do it, and was told that I was good in the role, but it meant giving up other things. I haven’t been to the gym or to dance class in a month, and I missed two consecutive weeks of Friday night services and dinner due to performances. Plus, I got way behind on schoolwork, self-care, and socialization. Every time I talked with my dad about it, with some complaint or another, he always said “you’re doing them a huge favor,” which is a true statement but kind of irked me after the first few times he said it because it felt selfish to hear and to imagine, and was the cause of a huge blow-up between us one night. I contemplated quitting, but the further and further along I went, the less prudent it seemed to leave the project in the lurch and make enemies of a group of people whom I considered my friends. I’ve never quit anything in my life and I guess now wasn’t the time to start. So I stuck with it, and suddenly it spit me out at the end of the semester, stressed but relieved that it’s over. Now, I have some time to reflect, take stock of myself, and really break down how I feel about things.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
Things I Like About Acting
- I like being a part of something. Whether it’s big or small, just knowing that I’m a cog in the works of a production is a warm and fuzzy feeling for me.
- I like when I receive praise. During The Comedy of Errors the praise was pretty much nonstop, from everyone, everywhere I went. I played Dromio of Syracuse with all the energy that I could muster, sometimes putting it over the top to compensate for some of the crappier parts of the show and to distract the audience from realizing how low-budget and messy the show actually was.
- I like receiving gifts. Tonight I got a cocktail shaker, since my character sometimes takes a while to mix drinks. Getting flowers is always nice too.
- I like when I know I’ve done a good job. I’ve done some really bad jobs in some great plays, but when I can take a bad play and do a good job performing my role to the best of my ability, even better. Case in point: a play I was in during senior year of high school. I had a very small comic-relief role, but I milked it for all it was worth every night, making my exits with a flourish and listening for the laughter and applause to stop so the scene could keep going. A lot of the comments I got were along the lines of “you saved the play” and “I wasn’t interested in anything except for the moments when you were onstage.” That just about made my day.
- I like the feeling after the show, the afterglow, the rush you get when you realize that your next costume will be your pajamas and your next production will involve lying in bed for several hours.
- I like saying, “yeah, I was in that show.”
- I like wearing costume and makeup and getting to be someone else for a little while, kind of pulling a fast one on the world (“Hey, where’d Jacob disappear to for two hours?)
- I like the satisfaction I get by adding another show to my resume.
Things I Don’t Like About Acting (AKA Why I Will Never Become a Full-Time Actor)
- I don’t like memorizing lines. I’m just plain bad at it. For this show, I don’t think I had all my lines down until opening night. I was freaked out at the thought of having to go on while on book, which I’ve seen done before in community theatre and know that it does not work well. A lot of little lines are preferable, in this case. Long speeches – yeah, like that’s going to happen.
- I don’t like the drama within the drama. It’s hard to act with someone whom you dislike in real life, especially if/when that person is Public Enemy No. 1. It’s never a nice feeling.
- I don’t like having to help out at strike. I get really sad when I have to take the set down, it’s so final, like I’m destroying my character’s home.
- I don’t like the constant comparisons. A good director can get through the whole process without comparing one actor to another. I’ve dealt with productions where there has been blatant favoritism by the director, or where the director is constantly comparing everyone’s performances. Leave the actors alone for a minute before opening your mouth. Fortunately that did not happen for this show.
- I don’t like when there is nobody I know in the audience. Due to the limited seating and the short run, we had fewer than 100 seats available all told, and only 1 of them ended up being a personal friend of mine. It was really, really sad. Everyone I knew either a) said they wouldn’t come for one reason or another, b) said they’d come and then didn’t reserve tickets in time, or c) said they’d come but didn’t do anything at all.
- I don’t like the disruptions to my body clock. I am that rare type of person who can get by on very little sleep and food, but there was one string of days when we had rehearsals less than 24 hours apart, giving me little time to process notes, decompress, and freshen up. One night I came home straight from rehearsal, went to bed, and then woke up to find that I had one hour to get to rehearsal again. I haven’t cooked myself a decent meal in ages – it’s all been in restaurants or on the go, wrapped in plastic or in a box/bag/can.
- I don’t like facing barrages of criticism. I can take it usually, but sometimes it’s just…enough, let me live my life not in fear.
- I don’t like it when actors tell me what I should feel or what I should be doing. If I’m wrong, that’s what the director is there for. Usually, I’ll figure it out by myself, but I would never tell someone else what they’re doing wrong.
- I don’t like it when the techies act like all the actors are idiots.
There are probably more things on this list but I’ve been typing for almost an hour.
It’s been great being Oscar in Lights Out for the past six weeks, but I’m ready to turn the lights out on him.