12:08:01 AM EDT
Love is a better master than duty.
There's a line in an Arthur Miller play which says "What difference does it make what you do if you can't do the work you love. It's a luxury. Most people never get near it." I suppose that's true. I am grateful that I ws able to spend most of my life doing the work I love. I'm sad that I had to retire early from it due to physical problems for which I have no insurance. I know of actors 20 years older than I who are still working. But, at least, I had close to 50 years of being an entertainer and that is something I applaud. And did I love it?
Behind all the glamour of movies and the excitement of live theatre there are hours of drudgery and tedious work. Rehearsals can sometimes be a major drag on one's energy and positive spirit. They are usually frustrating and annoying. I know an actress who says that after every rehearsal she's "grumpy."
Then there is the process of memorizing lines. There are few things more frustrating. You work for hours and hours trying to get the right words learned in their proper order. When you finally go to bed you know the speech perfectly. When you wake up in the morning you can hardly remember any of it. You have to get the words in your head so well that you don't have to think about them and you can think about the thoughts behind them instead. If I hadn't done it so often for so many years I would have a hard time believing that it was possible. Tedious repetition is the only way I can do it.
Three times in my career I was applauded in rehearsal by the other actors on the stage. Once was in a play called The Apple Cart by Shaw. My character had a very long speech in the last act, several pages long. We had a week to prepare this play and by Thursday afternoon I still didn't know it. But I had set myself a goal of learning a certain number of pages every day no matter what. As it was in the latter part of the play those pages came up for learning on Thursday evening. Several pots of coffee and many hours later I went to sleep (for about 2 hours). When I awoke I went through it once more. We didn't rehearse that scene until Friday afternoon. But when the scene came I said the speech perfectly and everyone was stunned. Spontaneous applause broke out. And did I love it?
It was frequently about difficult scripts, bad directors, actors who didn't know what they were doing or uncomfortable theatres. Performing is almost always a collaborative event. But when the combination is right, the play is a good one, the director is inspired and the actors are all together, it's "magic time," And did I love it?
I can honestly tell you that there were tines when I came off the stage after a performance saying to myself "I love this. I love this more than life itself."
DB - Vagabond Journeys