I really don't know very much about acting. It just flows. I think about the character, practice the voice, and voilà--there she is. She is usually very different from me. I've seen facial expressions in show shots that I have never seen in the mirror. I have no idea how that happens; it just does. I've never had any formal theater education...just a lot of on-the-job training.
This play is different. I didn't realize how much until last night's rehearsal, which was very emotional...and tonight's was even more so. We were blocking Act II of "Steel Magnolias." For those of you who might have been under a rock, or just dismissed the movie as a "chick flick," Act II, scene i, which we did last night, is the one in which we learn that Shelby is in dialysis, and that M'Lynn is about to donate a kidney to save her daughter's life. Act II, scene ii, the end of the play, deals with M'Lynn's grief at Shelby's death.
If you don't realize the sad and angry memories that brings up, Dearly Beloved, you've been ostriching here for the last three years, four months and however many days! Oh. My. God. Remember, I said that character creation "just flows?" This one flows like Niagara Falls! The trick is not to get the character to emerge, but to keep the overwhelming flood in check enough to get the words out.
It has been quite a long time since I have cried as much as I have in the past couple of days. We have all been crying, including the director, assistant director and stage manager.
It is going to be very interesting to see how long it will be before this flood of emotion subsides and acting ensues. If ever. Of course, "acting," in the context of this play is perhaps a misnomer. "Acted," this play becomes a soap opera. It's more a question of feeling the emotions, but keeping the feelings in character.
Stay tuned, Dearly Beloved, for more Adventures in Theater. In this play, it's a fine line between acting and grief therapy!