Monthly Archives: April 2019

Trusting the Text

Is it just me, or can actors be some of the biggest control freaks ever? Maybe it’s just me, I dunno; someone fact check me, please. For me personally, there have been so many instances in my life when partaking in theatrical endeavors that I have found myself trying to have a tight hold on what I think the character is feeling. I create my own idea of what the character wants and feels. While yes, there is a certain amount of internal development that is up to the actor portraying the character, so many times, it’s easy to miss what the writer intended to be said on stage.

I recently got to work on a translation of Sophocles’s “Antigone” by Anne Carson. What’s most interesting about Carson’s translation is that there is not very much punctuation written into the script. Aside from a few question marks and exclamation points, there isn’t a ton of established punctuation. This allowed freedom for the cast to really sit down and digest the words that we were speaking. We had to do our homework by adding our own punctuation. The lyrical nature of her script was fascinating to study and by far one of the biggest challenges I have had thus far as a stage actor.

A favorite saying that our director, Tee Quillin, would say at least once a rehearsal was, “Trust the text.” There is a tendency with actors, especially young actors, to add their own interpretation on the lines they are reciting that sometimes is in the total opposite direction of what is needed for the show. It’s easy to walk into a show thinking, “I know what I want this character to be like,” and totally disregard what is truly needed from you as a performer.

I struggled with this majorly while playing Ismene, Antigone’s younger sister. There are so many ways that this character can be played, and Tee’s direction that he was taking us on was that Ismene is naïve to a major fault. The poor girl had so much love for her family but was trapped following the rules that had been set in place by earthly leaders. Since Ismene was following the rules made by men instead of those set by the gods, there was a major disconnect between her and Antigone.

Another thing about Ismene is that she really does not have a lot of fight in her, unlike her older sister. This is where my struggle stemmed from. I have dealt with a lot of crappy situations in life that have dragged me down, but I have never felt completely hopeless. Getting to that mental state was a long process, and a frustrating one, I might add. I would leave rehearsal, kicking myself that I wasn’t getting what our director wanted. There were many conversations about the character, and Tee always pushed this one thought: Trust the text.

The beauty of storytelling on stage is that actors are able to bring to life the words of playwrights. Every writer puts great thought and detail into the words they put down on paper. It takes analysis and time to get a true understanding for what the writer wants to be portrayed on stage. It also takes not only a good director to convey the theme of the work to their company, but also a trust in that director that they have done their homework in analyzing the script. From there, the actor must trust the words that they are speaking to do their work.

In Shakespeare’s masterpiece, “Hamlet,” the title character gives a speech to the players that begins with him saying, Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.” Basically, Hamlet is telling the actors to not over-exaggerate the lines he has given them like other actors did; otherwise, he might as well have a newscaster say the lines. Further down the page, Hamlet continues, saying, “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”  Translation: Fit the action to the word and the word to the action, always acting natural, no matter what it takes. Exaggeration has no place on stage, where the purpose is to represent reality, holding a mirror up to virtue and to the pulse of the times.

What makes this one of my favorite Shakespearean speeches of all time is that Good Old Will used his main character to call out all the over-acting actors of his time. The performers were exaggerating everything instead of playing true-to-life. Shakespeare was calling out the people who weren’t just taking writer’s words at face value and performing them earnestly. I believe that this speech is one that every actor should have memorized and revisit over and over again during their career. It can be easy to lose sight of the truthfulness needed to be an actor. It’s also terrifying to be truthful. You know why? Because being truthful means being vulnerable, and that is hard to do with just one person, let alone an entire audience.

The more I thought about the phrase, “trust the text,” the more it made me think about my spiritual life. So often, I think to myself, “I’m sure this is the right thing to do,” without really talking to the One know really knows what is best for me. It’s amazing that we have been given a book that was literally inspired by the breath of God and we so often don’t really trust it. Oh yeah, the Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing,” and “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” But am I a person who is anxious all the time? Yep. Am I a person who is often afraid and/or dismayed by how life is going? You betcha. Even though I have been told time and time again that I am *never* alone, I still have a hard time trusting the guide book that has been given to me. However, during the times I let go, breathe, and let God take a hold of my worries, I find that in my vulnerable state, I feel much more freedom as I walk through life.

“Antigone” was an experience that taught me how to breathe out the text and to really trust not only my director and fellow actors, but also the playwright. When you allow the text to do it’s work, you find that you aren’t having to work as hard. By not forcing a performance, you are better able to connect with your audience. It also reminded me that I still have so much to learn about myself and my craft, but that it’s perfectly fine that I don’t have it all figured out yet. That’s the point of life; we’re always learning. I can say that I finally got to a point with Ismene that I was proud of myself as an actress. It was difficult and a little painful at times to work through the emotions of the character, but understanding how to trust the lines I had been given was a lesson I will forever be grateful for. As long as I keep performing, I will always make sure to have those three words in mind as I get to know my character, and as long as I continue my walk with Christ, I will be persistent in learning how to truly trust His text.

 

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Cast, Crew and Designers of “Antigone”

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Revisits: November 27th 2017

I started doing “Revists” when I ran across two documents that I was working on in 2017 to gain consistency in writing. A good chunk of the entries are light and funny, but some of them are very heavy, particularly entries from November 2017 onwards. I tried making two promises to myself to stick with the daily writing project, both of which I fell short on. This post is from the midst of a show week and a deep “blue period” for me. When I first read this post, I cried when I realized how much hurt I was dealing with at the time that I didn’t fully grasp. This was at a point in my life where I was refusing to get help or to deal with issues that needed to be addressed. Point of reference: writing in bold is the original text, writing in italics commentary. 

 

11/27/2017

I’m so thankful to past Abby for not putting a quantity goal on this project if mine, because as this semester comes to a close, I’m not going to have any extra time to even breathe. Oh just you wait until the spring semester, Abby. I was PISSED last night when Kelsey emailed us saying we had Short and Sweet rehearsal, because I was going to use tonight to try and get ahead on some homework. It was a huge sigh of relief when she sent an email this morning saying it was a false alarm, but I was quite irritated still to say the least. Kelsey, if you’re reading this, I love you, Grandmama. Receiving that email from you was awesome.

Trying to get everything organized is going to be the death of me. I’ve got three giant projects to finish for my studio classes, and I think I’m biting off more than I can chew. Ha. Yes, yes you were. You’re gonna be doing that for another year and a half. Oh well. Trying to get that freaking portfolio together so that maybe the art department will give me more money next semester. Man, I am glad that I dropped down to an animation minor and that I don’t have to deal with applying for scholarships for my Bachelor’s anymore.

***

Oh my gosh, I literally have no idea when I’ll get these art projects done, I’m going to die. You made it through, it’s okay. Why are my projects always so elaborate? Because you like to challenge yourself. Why can’t I be a bum and just BS my work like half my peers do? Well… Because I’m a freaking over achiever and if I don’t push myself to do my very best I feel like a loser. Let’s try and rephrase this: I give my best effort in every area of my  life, but if I fall short of my personal expectations, that doesn’t mean I’ve  failed.

I know I’m not a perfectionist. Eeeeeeh wondering if that isn’t the case. I most definitely slack off on some stuff. I wish there was a term for a person who wants everything to look great.

I guess there is a word for that…

“Overachiever”

Which you already used, Abby

Dummy Oh sweet girl.

Ugh, I need to be kinder to myself. I guess I sort of did something for myself today. I made a sheet of photos and “illegally” printed them in the office. It’s technically not illegal, but they would probably be mad if I used company time to make a sheet of scrapbook photos. Oof, I remember this day. It was a really slow day, but I felt really bad about it.

I’m the worst.

Oh well.

I have found recently I am giving less-of-a-crap for a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t. Having to work my ass off constantly is exhausting; I don’t have time to give a crap anymore. Side bar: adding a Sabbath to my weekly routine has been the best thing I have done for myself over this past month of my life. Hopefully this isn’t how I’ll always be. It’s not: now you care almost a bit too much. I want to “give a crap” about stuff. I want to care. I just feel like I’ve turned into a robot of negative emotions. I’m a Tin Man. I don’t have a heart.

That’s a huge hyperbole, because I do care. I obviously do; I cry on my boyfriend all the time.  Which that needs to change ASAP, Abby. You’re an annoying hot mess who needs to get their act together and stop being a Debbie-Downer all the time. You’re afraid of everything and it’s dumb. Snap out of it. WOW WOW WOW. I wish I could say I didn’t talk to myself like this anymore, but sentences like this come out of my mouth often. God bless my life allies who are good at helping refute negative self-talk.

I should never be a counselor.

In other news, I’m gonna stop taking birth control. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m an emotional pipe bomb all the time. Ah yes, a choice that was influenced by people who don’t believe in medicine. Granted, there are other factors, but I am thinking the additional hormones being added to my body aren’t really helping. Maybe my period will be normal now, I dunno, but at this point, I’ve gotta fix my brain for the good of everyone around me.

I don’t have a cute little button for this post. To be quite honest, two different drafts are sitting on my desktop that I got half way through this week but abandoned for the time being. It’s okay to admit to yourself that you’re not alright. At times, you’ve gotta take a step back, breathe, and do what you need to take care of yourself. That can mean spending two hours with your Disney Princess coloring book while watching “The Office.” Or, it can mean blasting a T-Pain album while beating up bad guys in your Spider-Man video game. Sometimes, it means sleeping through the day.  

As stated before, I wrote this original post during a very low period of my life. Full disclosure, I’m in a much lower valley now than I was on November 27th, 2017. I don’t write this post to say, “Oh, woe is me, everyone should feel bad for me.” I share this very vulnerable part of my brain in hopes that someone else can be helped by hearing my story. So, in absence of a button-ending, I’ll leave you with this: take care of yourself, not for the benefit of other people, but for *you*. You are important and worth the effort.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Top Five Scenic Painting Jobs

For someone who has always enjoyed painting, getting to move to larger projects via theatrical sets has been a great challenge over the past few years. Here are my top five favorite projects I have worked on thus far!

 

Honorable Mention- “21 Chump Street”- I was not on the official design/construction team for “Short and Sweet,” which is a collection of short plays and films that my college puts on once a year. However, a friend of mine was directing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 15 minute musical, “21 Chump Street,” and for her set, she was using the chalkboard from our scene shop. I was asked if I could add some graffiti to the chalkboard, which resulted in me spending an hour in the theater blasting Taylor Swift and going to town on the board. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

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5) “Schoolhouse Rock Live!”-This one doesn’t technically count as I really only painted one part of the set. “Schoolhouse” was the first show I ever did in college, and is still one of my favorites. While I was an actor in the production, I found myself wandering into the scene shop a few times to help on set construction. The first time I went in, I was told to finish putting together a set of stairs. After a few visits, I ended up painting most of the Lolly House, which ended up as the homebase for the band that was playing for the show. It was during this project I learned how to mimic the look of cinder block via sawdust and a hudson sprayer. Not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to be on stage every night with a set I had helped to create.

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4) “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” –This is another one that I only did part of the painting process for, but it was because of “Schoolhouse Rock Live” that I was able to teach others some helpful techniques. Over the winter break of 2017, I was home in KC while my paint shoes were safe in their locker in St. Joe. “Surely I won’t need to take these home over break!” (Famous Last Words) Some of my dear friends were in a production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” at the time through the theatre program I grew up participating in. I offered to come in and help gather costumes and assist in painting the set. Due to the limited amount of rehearsal time though, cast members filtered in and out of their rehearsal space and the warehouse where the brick walls were being painted. Since I had just worked on a brick project a few months beforehand, I was able to guide the process with students who hadn’t put a hand on scenic painting before. I came back into town a month later to see the show, and let me tell you, those brick walls looked super spiffy. Side bar: my purple converse ended up becoming my secondary set of paint shoes.

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3) “Blithe Spirit” –Ah, the biggest love/hate/mostly hate experience I have had thus far with a painting project. Let me preface this with the fact that “Blithe Spirit” is my favorite play that I have gotten to perform in thus far. British humor cracks me up, y’all. The whole play takes place in the living room of the Condomine house, so since there was only one location, we had a lovely, elaborate box set. God bless our Technical Director, Scroggs; his carpentry skills were off the charts for this project. There was so much math involved in creating the staggered walls of the set, and I am forever envious of those who have a natural knack for drafting. Those gorgeous walls needed a pattern though, which is where I came in. I spent about ten hours going up and down a ladder stenciling the massive set. The little paint roller I was using had a wonderfully frustrating habit of falling off the handle every five minutes, and I looked like I had leprosy every time I finished a painting session. Proud to say though, there was only one part of the wall that I messed up math-wise while painting. My stage husband enjoyed pointing it out to me every other day. It helped fuel our arguments during the show.  

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2) “Spring Awakening”-I live in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, there’s this thing called snow that likes to throw off everyone’s lives. The winter of 2018, we didn’t have as much snow, but goodness sakes, we had a ton of ice. We had so much ice that our campus closed for three days. Oh, did I mention that those three days were right in the middle of tech for “Spring Awakening?” Yeeeeeeeeah not the greatest timing. However, the show must go on, and the set must be finished. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Brett Carlson on creating 128 square feet of our “Song of Purple Summer” mural. Learning how to make canned paint look like watercolor was a fantastic skill to learn and led to a gorgeous end result. Replicating the process for KCACTF51 was terrifying because I wasn’t sure if I could measure up to what was made the year before, but I surprised myself by my recreation. (Fun fact: this show was one of the main reasons that Sweet Ben and I became good friends. It was a long process, but it was good to have a partner for the project.)

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1) “Antigone”-Woohoo for my current project! This design was a collaboration with Ben and our professor Jeff for our set design independent study. There was an afternoon where Ben and I were cleaning out the paint kitchen, and stumbled upon these banners that had been used for a show years beforehand. We were in the midst of brainstorming what we wanted the set to look like, and he had the idea to have some form of banners as part of the design. Ben’s got a knack for creating symbols, so together, we created runes for not only each character in the play, but also runes for characters that were part of the other plays in Sophocles’ trilogy about the line of Oedipus. From there, we ended up creating 14×5 foot banners that hang on either side of the stage. After Ben did the math, we drew out the symbols in a what we lovingly refer to as the “Death Tree.” I then spent a few hours filling them in with black paint (shout out to Ted Dekker for writing spooky books that are fun to listen to while painting for a Greek tragedy).

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The next day, I tea-stained the giant banners to tone down the brightness of the muslin we had painted on. We attached them to one of our batons so we could fly them out to dry. While looking at them, I was so anxious about the next step. Our idea was to make blood stains on the banners, but I loved how nice they looked up to this point. I didn’t wanna screw up the hours of work we had already put in! I spent about an hour mixing and testing different washes of paint to try and great the right color for the job. I ended up soaking the ends of the banners in a gallon bucket of the wash mixture I landed on. My hands were stained red and I looked like I had just committed a horrible crime. Following this, I went a little nuts with splatter painting, creating some pretty sick looking “blood splatters.” This technique only added to me looking like a psycho murderer, but dang, did those banners look awesome. It was a fun adventure to wander around the building while covered in the paint; I’ve never heard our costuming professor laugh as loudly as she did that afternoon.

 

While there have been moments of frustration and self-doubt while working on each of these projects, all of them led to really gratifying end results. Overall lesson from these experiences: don’t doubt yourself. Even if you make mistakes, you’ll always end up learning something new from each assignment you take on. Don’t be afraid to make a mess; the messy projects are usually the most fun!

 

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Revisits: Dark Lipstick

In this installment of “Revisits,” I commentate on how I viewed make up a little over two and a half years ago and where I am now. For point of reference, the original piece of writing I wrote back in 2017 is in bold, and my additional commentary is in italics. Enjoy! 

January 2nd 2017

Let’s talk about dark lipstick. Over the past year, I’ve become more interested in actually partaking in the social norms of being a girl. Oof, we are off the the races, aren’t we, Abby? Oh you pretentious writer soul, you! By social norms, I’m referring to styling my hair, creating fashion combinations that aren’t just t shirts and jeans every single day, and wearing more noticeable make up. Fun fact: I once had a  person in my life (whom I love dearly) who was talking about how they used to wear only t-shirts and jeans everyday before we started class.  I expressed, “Me too!” I was quite proud of my graphic tee collection. Right after my exclamation though, they said they weren’t really proud of that fact. I was twelve, and it was the first time I was self conscious about my appearance. I’ve liked this one tube of lip gloss an awful lot since the summer. It was one my mom didn’t use anymore and had somehow ended up in my stage make up bag. After wearing it for Anything Goes, I found that I actually really liked the color. God bless that lipstick that made my bartender character look like a woman. I would wear it more often, and if I was seeing someone I wanted to impress, you could bet that lip gloss was in my pocket. “Someone?” Who are you kidding? You wore it around that boy you liked who didn’t give you the time of day and you know it!

About a month ago, Mom introduced me to this fancy new lip stain that stays on all day. LipSense: the gift from the make-up heavens. Currently wearing Blu-Red, which I fell in love with when I saw Taylor Swift in Tampa this summer. It’s truly magical stuff. I never wanted to be a girl that redoes her makeup when out with guys, but I still wanted them to think, “Hey, she actually looks like a girl.” Oh my gosh, sweetheart, you’ve always looked like a girl, you poor thing. I’m about 95% positive that this insecurity came from the fact that I have played so many male roles on stage. With my stature, it really is easy for me to look like a boy with the help of costumes and stage makeup. Whenever you get repeatedly cast in male roles to the point where it becomes a running joke, it can be rough on the still developing mind. When I auditioned for “Beauty and the Beast,” I blatantly went after the role of Lefou, not only because I thought playing the role would be fun, but also because I didn’t think I was the type of girl to play a princess. Granted, I tried really hard to claim the joke for my own, but no matter how much I made cracks at my own expense, it still hurt at least a little bit every time. I’m not very good at it yet though. I miss parts of my upper lip or put too much gloss on almost every time. But last night, when I went to see my friends in a show, one of my girl friends said, “Wow, that dark lipstick looks great on you!” Ah yes, the validation of other females. More often than not, much more impactful and/or scarring than that from men.

Now, I don’t usually carry comments around about what people say about my appearance. While this is true, the comments I do carry are HEAVY. For example, one that still creeps into my thoughts every now and then is when a guy kept making lesbian jokes at my expense when I had a pixie cut and was wearing a flannel. Granted, that first pixie cut was not the greatest thing in the world, but goodness, that messed with my head for years, especially when I was still dealing with gluing my heart back together after my first break up. This is quite the sidebar, but hey, can we all choose to not use sexual orientation as a way to tear another person down? K thanks. Sure, when a fella says, “You look nice,” it boosts my confidence for a bit, but I don’t often have a comment from a fellow female floating around in my head for almost 24 hours. Yet, here I am, wearing my pjs with my mismatched socked feet on my desk with dark red lip stick on. Fun fact: I am SHOOK on the days I accidentally match my ankle socks. I didn’t leave the house once today, yet I still put the stuff on. Why? There was no one to impress. The only people I had interactions with were my family, my dog, and a few snapchat exchanges. Abby, you did have someone to impress, and you know darn well who you were snap chatting with that A+ lip stain.

I never used to care. I went through a phase where I wore this wool newsies hat EVERYWHERE. This hat currently resides on my “CYT Shrine,” resting on top of the wig I “styled” for Scottish Play and a styrofoam head that I think I accidentally stole. It didn’t matter what I was doing, I wore that freaking hat all the time. In a sense, I feel as though that hat was a shield. I didn’t like my hair, so I covered it up. Puberty was ROUGH. Keeping thin, blonde hair clean is quite difficult. Can you blame a girl for wanting to cover it up? With that logic in mind, I sometimes wonder where or not I used makeup to cover up the face I’m not particularly fond of. There was a day my parents gave me the green light to start using the stuff, so I did. I wasn’t very good at it then, and certainly not super great at it now. The difference now though is the mindset. Looking back, I don’t think I was covering up a face I didn’t like. With or without makeup, I didn’t feel pretty at all. I was friends with the girls in elementary school who grew up to be the “popular girl” stereotype. I was always surrounded by people I thought were pretty. I tried to have what I thought they had, but it was a lot of effort and after a while, I chose not to consciously care (at least for a little while).

Full disclosure, yes, I do put in more time on my make up when I see my guy friends. Ah, there we go. There’s the true honesty. They most likely don’t even care, but I do. In the back of my mind, I want to thought of as a beautiful person, like the girls who get asked out to dances and on dates and are pursued. OOF. This was a BIG deal for me: dances. I wanted so badly for one of my guy friends to ask me to a dance in high school and would be very upset when one of the girls I viewed as being super gorgeous got asked instead. But that’s not the only reason, and definitely shouldn’t be the only reason. I like looking in the mirror and thinking, “Dang girl, you look good today.” I enjoy feeling confident in the sense that I don’t need a boy to tell me I look nice; I can do it for myself. Yes, HOWEVER, it is good to surround yourself with both men and women who will unapologetically build you up.

It’s fun to be pretty. Yep. It’s okay to spend time enhancing your features. Hmm, let me rephrase this. I feel it’s okay to enhance the features God has given you if you are doing it for the right reason. Calling attention to yourself for selfish reasons instead of wanting to reflect the Light of Christ inside of you: not the right reason. While it’s not something I spend hours doing, I like fluffing up my “puff” and putting on makeup. *snickers* “Puff” is what I lovingly referred to my mop of hair as I was growing out my first pixie. I feel as though I had once had a stigma against being “fancy” because I wanted to be ready to goof off and horse around. Hence why I ALWAYS wear booty shorts underneath skirts and dresses. You never known when you’re gonna get into a snowball fight while walking across campus. Also, WIND. Where does it say though that you can’t hang upside down from a tree while wearing dark red lipstick? I’m sure someone said that somewhere, and whoever did it has no imagination or joy in their life.

There’s a reason why I’ll never be a Beauty Guru on YouTube: I still don’t know how I truly feel about the stuff. Okay, now I know how I feel about it. I like it. It makes me feel more confident. Do I need it to feel confident? Heck no! But I have found on days that I feel sick or unmotivated, putting on at least mascara and eyeliner does a world of wonder for my mood. While I’ll never be a girl to spend more than ten minutes doing their face in the morning, I have come to have an appreciation for my little bag of products.

To the kid who feels insecure with how they look: you’re not alone, Dear One. To the teenager who doesn’t feel like you’ll ever fit in because of how you look: you are valuable beyond measure, Dear One. To the young adult who feels ugly: you are not defined by your outward appearance, Dear One. To anyone who has ever been torn down by the negative thoughts from others or yourself: you are not defined by the words of flawed human beings, Dear One. Everyone is uniquely hand-crafted in an absolutely wonderful way: relish the fact that there is no one on Earth exactly like you.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby