This November, I acted in my first-ever play: Everybody, an existential dark comedy about finding somebody to die with you. This contemporary adaptation of the fifteenth-century morality play The Summoning of Everyman inaugurated MIT's new theater building (MIT News). Its underlying narrative appears in many cultures: a journey towards death, in which the protagonist learns that they cannot bring their possessions and people with them—except for one, which teaches them what is most important in life. I learned so much from my director Anna Kohler and my wonderful fellow actors!
Here is a (private) clip from my performance, followed by a reflection on the creative process as an actor.
We actors got hammered into shape by Anna, who continually pushed us to increase our variety and intensity of expression, and experiment with completely different routes of delivery. It was quite inspiring to see this work of art take shape between us over eight weeks, the director and the actors, each of us adding, remixing and absorbing from the creative pool under the guidance of Anna's vision. I really respect her vision and her ability to give it form.
I'm grateful that this play challenged me harder than I could completely rise up to; I have a lot to work on next time! Reinventing myself and remaining present were most difficult. Anna kept reminding us to say every line as if for the first time, not as if we memorized it. (But without reinventing the lines themselves!) I easily fall into a "muscle memory" of well-practiced intonation and gestures, but tried every performance to break that pattern--to keep it fresh and exciting, even for me. Another personal challenge was to remain present: staying aware of my surroundings and my fellow actors even as I follow the emotions of my character. To take guidance from emotions without being completely absorbed!
Anna gave another piece of good advice which I'll have to continue working on in future shows: stay in the center, aware of my surroundings, and depart in various (emotional) directions as needed, but always keep the flexibility to return to the center and move in another direction.
This show has also been my first exposure to the different parts of theater production, from sound and light to costumes and props. I'm impressed by the monumental scale of such a project. We have so many amazing and dedicated production staff, whose roles are less visible, but our collaboration has been crucial to materializing and enhancing our common vision. And efficiently, at that!