We are scattered against the walls of the simple hardwood room, throwing out our lines quickly, and watching one of our fellow actors move enthusiastically across the floor. Passersby peek through the window, unaware of the motive behind our rehearsal but certain that the man in the center is someone worth watching. He is. We are captivated, proud, and energized as he brings life to a story that the rest of us sometimes forget to enjoy.
After an emotional and exhausting weekend, this rehearsal is my meditation. It’s reflection and expression and interaction with other people. It’s creativity and frustration and disappointment and inspiration all rolled into one evening, then repeated the next day. Opening day for this Agatha Christie play, The Unexpected Guest, will be in one week at the Lake Worth Playhouse. We have all put an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves as opening day comes closer. But the nerves and the stress are invigorating.
Rehearsing for a play is much like training for a marathon: there is a specific goal; unexpected challenges and changes of motivation; an imminent deadline; and fear of ultimate embarrassment, disaster, and death (you tell an actor that forgetting his/her lines isn’t the end of the world and just wait for his/her explosive reaction). The main difference between a play and a race–besides the fact that one is a race and the other isn’t, of course–is that a play involves other people.
The high you feel from a good run isn’t shared by anyone. A good rehearsal, on the other hand, is often a mutual cause for relief, enthusiasm, and revitalized motivation. It’s the “aha!” moment of finally understanding a phrase that didn’t make sense until you said it the hundredth time. But, of course, there is guilt involved in a not-so-encouraging rehearsal that doesn’t necessarily exist on a bad run day. That’s what I had been looking for, though: the community of community theater. It comes with the understanding that we are all stressed and tired and working, but we come here every evening because we want to. And that is powerful enough in itself.
Just as my workload doubled, so did our rehearsal schedule. In addition to some melodrama and some untimely personal decisions, this has been an exhausting couple of weeks. But I love it. I am so genuinely grateful to have this opportunity to rehearse with such a creative, interesting, talented group of people six nights per week. And, in fact, I’m a bit nervous about what happens when the play is done and I have more time to reflect on the “living solo” thing again.
This isn’t the first time I have said that I have missed theater. I remember being in Moldova, sitting on the floor of a cell-sized hotel room reading through a play another Peace Corps volunteer had written. I started crying. Even sitting there reading a completely unfamiliar play in a not-yet-familiar country, it felt like coming home. Now this play, this cast and crew, and the personal discovery that comes with playing someone else are helping to make me feel at home in South Florida, too.