I know the space. In fact, I know it quite well. My first experience in what is now the Dietz Theater was in high school, when it was Weathervane’s scene shop. I spent many hours in that room as a volunteer: painting, drilling, sawing… creating.
I had been curious about acting, but spent most of my time at Weathervane backstage. I discovered a lot about myself behind-the-scenes. I had a knack for building, constructing and collecting props, which translated into doing properties design for many productions. I was detail-oriented and organized, which led to opportunities as a stage manager. When approached about being involved, the answer was always: YES!
I found myself enamored by the actors onstage. To me, they were celebrities who I was fortunate enough to call friends. I got my “break” at Weathervane in 1997 in ‘The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Christmas Carol.’ After that experience onstage, I was hooked; the terror and joy of performing before a live audience was the purest high.
I moved away from Ohio when I was 18. Fascinated by the allure of New York City, I made my way there. I went to school. I worked. I worked. And I worked some more. In fact, it felt like I was constantly working just to “get by.” After 12 years in New York, I took my cue to leave. I would miss the family I had found, but I would not miss the struggle. I packed my life into a U-Haul and came home.
My first night back in Ohio was restless. I needed something to do. After the fast paced and noisy world of NYC, the quiet of my parents’ house was unbearable. I googled “Weathervane.”
Last year, I was fortunate enough to get cast in two mainstage productions: ‘Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)’ and ‘Unnecessary Farce.’ During the run of both shows I used the Dietz Theater, which was no more than a dark room holding various set pieces and props, as my daily pre-show de-panic space. Ask any of my co-stars and they will tell you that before every show, even the very last one of the run, I have terrible anxiety. I spend the time from when I get my costume on, until the moment I am onstage, pacing back and forth, going over my lines as fast as I can.
While rehearsing for a show, if I am not at work or at rehearsal, I am working on my lines. I record them and listen to them in my car, while I am getting ready at home, in the shower; I’ve even gone as far as to listen to them while I sleep. I carry my script with me everywhere like a baby blanket. It’s a fear, an actor’s nightmare if you will, that something will go wrong while performing. In the event that it does, I would kick myself for any moment I wasted NOT rehearsing.
Finally, right before I go onstage, I walk up to a fellow actor and ask, “I know my lines, right?” As someone who struggles with anxiety, performing is probably the last thing I should be doing, but I love the challenge. The feeling I get after a performance is as if I had just wrestled a bear– and won!
Most of the shows I have tackled have been comedies. I am able to separate myself and just be ridiculous on stage. That being said, comedies are not easy. So much relies on pacing and timing, both of which add to my pre-show panic. Once I step onstage and get my first line out, all of that terror goes away and the play becomes a ride, a roller coaster. When I am standing at curtain call, I don’t even remember how I made the twists and turns and loop-de-loops.
The Lyons, although a comedy, is much different than any comedy I have done before. The characters hold secrets, resentment, and pain, all of which come out at the bedside of the dying father, Ben. I play Lisa, a lost soul of a daughter who is struggling to keep her life together despite her family. Lisa is raw and regularly falls apart. Her life is a tragedy– at least she makes it so. She is in a constant state of panic and anxiety. “I can use this,” I thought. “Channel that anxiety!”
It has been a challenge to play such a sad character while, at the same time, keeping it light. At our last rehearsal, Fred, our director, told the cast that we have invested enough in the sadness of the show; it was now time to let go and let it be funny. The characters are caricatures; the extremes of the family dynamic are what make it funny. The trick is to play them with enough truth to make them believable.
We had out first rehearsal in the Deitz Theater on Wednesday. I always thought of the space as big, at least it was in my memory. Seeing it filled with 48 seats changed that perception. The rehearsal room we were using was approximately the same size. There even was tape on the floor to show where the “stage” would be. What I didn’t comprehend until in the actual space was that the edge of the “stage” was actually a chair; a chair that an audience member would be sitting in. It dawned on me that the light illuminating us as actors would also be illuminating them. I have performed in front of hundreds of people but, being on an actual stage, I never had to see their faces! Cue anxiety.
In a lot of ways, I am like Lisa. I just have found ways to manage and cope with my anxiety, not letting it control my everyday life. I have been blessed with a wonderful family, which has helped, and wonderful friends. Perhaps if I had a family like the Lyons, I would have turned out differently.
Before making my first entrance last night at rehearsal, I was staring at the back of the door. I recognized it. It was the same door I looked at before entering the stage for ‘Unnecessary Farce.’ Seeing it brought a sense of calm, something familiar. For that moment I was at peace and I knew everything would go well. It always does. Knock on wood.
- Thursdays — Feb. 4 and 11 at 7:30 p.m.
- Fridays — Feb. 5 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturdays — Feb. 6 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sundays — Feb. 7 and 14 at 2:30 p.m.
- AND Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
- AND Saturday, Feb. 13 at 2:30 p.m.
For tickets, please visit www.weathervaneplayhouse.com or call 330.836.2626.