Saturday, April 20, 2013

Welcome to My Nightmare

At various stages in my life I have performed in amateur theatre productions. There is nothing quite like “nailing” a role, sensing that you have the audience where you want them; feeling that you have succeeded in carrying them into this alternative reality.

Rehearsals, while often hard work, can be tremendous fun. Waiting in the dressing room, particularly on opening night, full of nervous energy, rather than nervous per se, although there is some of that, too. Running through lines in your head; putting yourself in the character’s shoe – literally. Then there is the after show party, when the funny stories are told, the near or actual disasters related. Over a period of perhaps six to ten weeks, life has an entirely different favour, and a vastly greater intensity. Then the emptiness, the inevitable depression when it is all over.

It’s not surprising, then that this life can invade your dreams, not only during and immediately after the run of the show, but even years later. There is a recurring dream that actors have. It takes various forms, but the underlying theme is always the same. In fact, there has been a play written about it called The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang. In this dream, I am usually waiting offstage, awaiting my entrance. Unfortunately, I have no idea what my lines are, what role I am playing, or even what the play is. This is one of the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Mixed with this is enormous guilt because I seem to remember not attending rehearsals, not bothering to learn the lines. Strangely, sometimes, there is also a slightly desperate sense of euphoria, as the conviction washes over me that it will all come to me when I get out on the stage. I have had a similar dream about an exam situation, in which I do not even know what the subject is, and I have a sense of guilt for not attending lectures or doing enough study. I awake from these dreams in a sweat and with a deep sense of dread.

OK. Here is where I say, very Forrest Gump-like, that “life is a bit like that”. Yeah, it’s corny, I know. But life is a bit like being placed on the stage without a script and without any description of the character you are playing. No wonder, sometimes, life itself can fill us with dread. There is also a little of the “exam” feel about it: are we being tested in some way? What are the questions? What is the subject? Why didn’t I study harder?!

Sometimes, perhaps just as desperately, there is this sense of euphoria, when we let ourselves go, and trust that the right words and actions will flow from us at the appropriate time. So far so good. Or not so very bad, anyway.

And then there are the dreams in which I find myself naked in a public place. Or is that just me…?

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