Thursday, 19 June 2008
Rehearsals were over, it was the night that we were to peform our play before a live audience. After a year of practicing bits of classical French plays, movie shorts and a month of improvisation which I especially enjoyed, it was time to focus in on our final piece. After proposing different ideas, it was agreed that Three Tall Women by Edward Albee would be our final play and the culmination of our working all year together. Thanks to Dale Hodges, actor extraordinaire for recommending the play. It was an interesting story of a woman's life told by three characters who were actually all the same woman at different stages in her life. Our director was able to find the play in French, so we began the work of memorizing our parts and making them believable.
Did I mention that I have never acted in anything my whole life? Okay, once at eight years old I was Hansel in Hansel and Gretal, and I have never forgotten what it was like to memorize all those lines, 42 I believe it was, or the fun of doing it.
So here I am, learning lines in French and practicing them every Tuesday in class. As it turned out, having an real audience wasn't that big of a deal, as I was always "performing" in front of the other two women and the director. They would correct my pronunciation at times and the director had suggestions as to how to say things in a different way to convey the meaning better. It was challenging for me to keep changing the way I delivered the lines, and not feel ridiculous about it.
In the weeks leading up to our performance, we often practiced our lines two additional times per week at a member of the group's apartment. For some reason, this was harder for me to do, because I felt more pressure from one of the women. And my lines didn't follow a logical progression, so it was a little tricky knowing when to say which line.
Actually, when we first decided to do the play, and before we got going on it, I tried to bow out gracefully, suggesting the director offer my part to another student who had subsequently come along. I wasn't sure I was ready to commit to all the time it was going to take. We had many visitors coming, and it was springtime in Paris for goodness sake, time to enjoy the season in this beautiful city. But my husband encouraged me to continue, and I really did want to try and do it, I was just nervous and didn't want to screw the play up for the others.
A couple of days before showtime had me saying my lines on metros, waiting for the bus, and in our apartment. It felt good to say them out loud, over and over. It helped with memorization as well as pronunciation. Tuesday was our final dress rehearsal before Thursday's performance. The director gave us new things to work on which I wondered may be too late at this stage of the game. I needed to "strut" more like a model during one of my longer monologues, I needed to show more shock at the death of my father, and I had to disregard the other two characters' innane comments and focus on my emotion. Mon Dieu. I'll try.
I appreciate the people who came to watch- my family, including Q and M, Sean's cousin Grant along with his wife Mary and their great kids, Brianna and Dillon. A friend Allison came with her husband Eric, and being French, they were thus able to follow the play. But apparently, my son Q would laugh during the play and look over at the rest of the family and wonder why they weren't responding. His French is better than he has let on.
I have to say, it was quite fun and I didn't feel nervous for long at all. I was able to get into it and really enjoy myself. Our director played some music for ambiance at the beginning and between acts. After Act One we quickly changed into our outfits for Act Two and I could not zip up my dress. This had happened before, but I thought "it'll work out". Well, I just continued on with a portion of my dress unzipped, it was a side zipper that didn't show too much. I was later able to zip it all the way during another character's monologue. That was better. I did totally forget my line at one point and asked "pourquoi?" instead. Was I getting philosophical in the middle of the play? "Not now, brain!" My fellow actor was able to continue on as if my character had meant to ask why at that moment.
All too quickly, the final monologues were delivered and the lights were dimmed. We stood together and bowed for our gracious audience when the lights came back on. What a thrill! My kids (and spouse) were very excited for me, and I think they enjoyed it though not knowing all that was said, thankfully. I was glad to have family and friends at the play, even though I initially thought it could be harder to perform in front of people I knew. Many of the French spectators said they could totally understand all my lines, which made me happy. Of course I had an accent that was discernable, but one person thought for a while that the accent was part of my character.
I'm very glad I hung in there for the big show (big only in my mind, mind you). Fear could have won, but didn't. I signed up for the theatre class thinking it would be a fun way to continue learning and practicing French. It was more challenging than I thought it would be and at times, I wondered if my language skills were getting any better. In the end, it was a big accomplishment for me, challenging myself to do something totally new, accepting constructive criticism and showing up not sure what the final result would hold.