Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Time to Remember

When I tell civilians that I am an actor, the first thing they invariably do (after looking at me like I have three heads), is say, "I don't know how you memorize all those lines."   (Conversely, when I tell civilians that I am an improvist, the first thing they invariably do {after looking at me like I don't have a head at all} is say, "I don't know how you make all that stuff up."  Go know.)

I don't actually know how I memorize all those lines, either.  I do it because I have to and a lot of it involves hopinglikehell that I remember what I'm supposed to say on stage when I'm supposed to say it.  I have learned that I have to say the lines out loud in order for it to stick in my addled brain.  And I have to go over the lines every day during the run of the show, even if we're dark that night.  And that's still no guarantee that I'll say the right things at the right time.

There were a couple of times during Hamlet that what came out of my mouth was not English, although it was during a time when I was supposed to talk.  So there's that.  And during last Saturday's Earnest performance, I started to say a line I had already said.  But, thanks to my improv ability, I made something up around the line that made quasi-sense.  I hope. 

When I was in high school, our school was chosen as one of two high schools in the country to do an evening performance at the National Thespian Society Conference.  (As oppossed to the National Lesbian Society Conference, where all attendees are expected to perform every evening.)  It was quite an honor.  The play we did was All My Sons, by Arthur Miller.  It's kind of like a practice Death of a Salesman.  I had a smaller role, Sue Bayliss, but I did have a scene where I had a juicy monologue.  When we were doing the show at the conference (in front of 3,000 people), I had just finished my monologue.  At this time, the screen door was supposed to fly open and the male lead was supposed to come out and interrupt me.  By the use of my double "suppposed to's", I guess you can figure out that it didn't happen.  I looked at my scene partner, who turned green, letting me know that she wasn't going to help me out of this; so I just launched into another monlogue, one that Mr. Miller never wrote.  It went on for what seemed like two hours, but finally the lead burst through the screen door, looking, I am glad to say, uber-flustered.  I said the exit line I was supposed to say two hours before and left the stage.  And tried to stop shaking.  The cool thing about this is that in the audience was the woman who had originally played Sue Bayliss on Broadway, and she told my director that she thought that unless you knew that role,  you would never know I was just making shit up on the fly.  That made me feel good.

Okay, that enthralling tale had more to do with not talking to people when you should be listening for your cue rather than memorization, but it does speak to . . . . well, it doesn't really speak to anything, I just happened to think about it.  Hey, I'm a stream-of-consciousness writer, get over it.

I tell myself that memorizing lines is actually good for me, in that it helps stave off the dreaded Alzheimer's.  I figure if I can memorize a 10-minute Polonius speech, I have a good chance of remembering my name and where I live.  (Providing, of course, I don't have too much Cast Party.)  

So, if you see a woman wandering the streets of Highland Park, muttering, "I have a daughter, have while she is mine, who, in obedience, hath given me this!  Gather and surmise!", just point me in the direction of 34th Street.  Merci. 

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