"You're kidding me." After a delayed moment of silence hang in the air between us, I finally spoke in a measured tone. "You want me to go on in two days?" We were standing alone in the rehearsal green room. Mark, the director of the touring show Bird Brain was smiling at me. It was unlike his usual, knowingly goofy grin, but rather a closed-lipped gesture. It's like he was saying, "I know, I know, but you're going to have to do this, and it would really help me if you didn't freak out right now, but just got on board and were like, 'OK. What a great opportunity! I'm actually really grateful and not at all terrified or in any sort of panic mode at all. Because I'm a professional, dammit! I am a goddamned professional and it's my goddamned time to shine, dammit!'"
And so with that smile, (and a few more words that transpired which were not instantly revealing of my sincere excitement and appreciation for the chance to step up), I became a cast member of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's touring company of Bird Brain, a show geared towards grades 3-5. The original cast member playing The Queen was sick and needed someone to fill in. And, because the show had no understudies, I became 'Plan B' or... 'Plan L.' Plan L stood as follows: Take the show off the road for 24 hours. Use said 24 hours to unload set from van into rehearsal room, rehearse the shit out of play, and get me a costume fitting. Take show back on tour and pray, one day later.
...and also was beginning rehearsals for a two person show which would open in about a month...and understudying another show which was also close to opening. (Funnily enough, I wasn't even the busiest intern working at that time, bless your heart Kelsey). Needless to say, I was stressed. But something else had just happened that would inform how I would proceed with this *devastatingly* EXCITING news. I became a
That's right, I got my EM EFF AY and I was damn proud of it. Here was the perfect opportunity for me to step up and act like the entitled, double degree bearing, ankle deep in debt owing, qualified up the ying yang ac-TRESS that I had become!
And yet, this is how I felt. Completely freaked out.
But I showed up. I took the script home that night and learned the lines as best I could. I was solid until the last third of the play by the time I showed up for my one and only rehearsal the next morning, that fateful Tuesday. I came sleepy-eyed and fired up. I was scared, some'in fierce. This fear became the gasoline in my engine. And I focused as deeply as my MFA would allow, which is pretty deep as it turns out. Thank you, R&S.
The next day I was, once again, in front of a sea of eager children, the most honest audience you'll find next to a pub full of drunks on karaoke night. I looked out at all their awe-struck faces, beaming back, dazzled by the textures and colors of the magical set. They had no clue as to how ready I was, and frankly my dear, they didn't give a damn. What they did care about was an intangible desire to be whisked away to wherever this story would take them. And in that moment, that's all I really wanted for myself as well. "Deep...deep in a winter wood..."
I performed for about two weeks as The Queen in Bird Brain. I never went on for any of the five mainstage roles I understudied at The Playhouse otherwise. There were often times I joked about this disparagingly, having missed out on the opportunities all us interns had not-so-secretly hoped to get. I watched life happen to the equity actors, and one by one an intern got to stand up. And I groaned at the 'inconvenience' of having to learn an entire role in 24 hours and recommit myself to the notoriously laborious and unromantic tour life. Looking back now, I just think of how funny it is. I had so much fun performing for those little kids. They really, really liked the show. I got to connect with them. And it's just that simple.