Saturday, October 07, 2006

becoming connie
Continued reflections on the acting experience


My character in the play is named Connie Dayton. Connie and I have a lot in common, but in some respects we're very different. I like to be a girlie girl sometimes; Connie is girlie-girl through and through. She wears pinks and purples, has long fingernails always impeccably painted, styles her hair beautifully, and would never be caught dead without makeup. So, I chose her outfits accordingly, bought stick-on fake nails (which are lots of fun if a bit hard to type with!) and painted them to match one of her outfits in the play, bought false eyelashes and liquid eyeliner, and dusted off my hot curlers. None of these things are at all usual for me!

On the other hand, sometimes people have said that I radiate a certain something. I hope that doesn't sound too immodest. It's just this curious thing that people have said, a data point that I hold in my awareness without in any way understanding it. It's hard to know what it means since I can't get outside myself to look, but whatever it is they mean it as a compliment. I'm sure I don't radiate it all the time; just ask The Huz. :o)

But maybe that's something Connie and I have in common. In the play, Connie is always "on." She sparkles, she smiles, she moves beautifully (I hope! Since that's me moving her and I do not think that's how I move normally). She has great posture and poise and she reads people well. She's intelligent and very focused on using her personal assets to get what she wants. Despite how Machiavellian that sounds, she's actually a very nice person, but she's stuck in the early sixties when men (at least stereotyped men) wanted to avoid commitment at all costs because it would truncate " sowing their wild oats." Connie wants "Alan," but by no means is she desperate. This gal has other options if this one doesn't work out.

How do I know all this?

I made it all up.

Part of the acting process is trying to understand the character from the bare words written in the script. This picture wasn't complete on day one. Right away I had her pegged as a pinks & purples girlie-girl, but the rest of it developed as we went through rehearsal after rehearsal, and I spoke her words and moved through her space. I won't go so far as to say that she, like, exists out there somewhere and expressed herself through me. Not into that sort of nonsense. But it's interesting how, as we worked on the expressions, the intonations, the blocking (how you move on stage, where you stand & sit and when) I began to "see" more and more of her.

And I began to like her a lot. As if she really did exist somewhere, but here, in me. I've heard actors say before that you really can't do a character justice until you come to have sympathy and affection for them. Even the lowest low-life character has to be appreciated before you can do her justice. I kind of had an inkling of what they were expressing, but it's been really almost woo-eeee-ooo weird to experience it.

For instance, there's a line in the play where Alan tells "Buddy" that Connie is different, not like those other girls. Listening to that, I was glad. I actually felt gratified that he "felt" that way. Isn't that weird? This is fiction, people! Alan doesn't exist! Neither does Connie!

In another place, he tells Buddy that "Peggy" is prettier than Connie, with none of the disadvantages. (Peggy is a sex kitten type.) My heart was a little grieved to hear that ... but of course, I knew that all along! It's as if there's a sort of multiple personality thing going on inside me. It was Connie's heart that was grieved, it was me who already knew that.

Don't worry, I'm not going psycho. I'm just observing how this process works with some wonderment.

With any luck, I'll have some pictures of Connie before the play shuts down, so I can show her to you. I'm sure you'll like her, too, although perhaps not as much as I do. :o)

Previous posts about the play (in reverse order):a quick hello
audiences & my "butter me" line
relief, and no stage fright
hoo boy
"hell" week
more theater
reflections on acting
Come Blow Your Horn

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