The tears don't always come. The actual droplets, that is. But when they do, it's a fun, almost secret, sharing between me and the first couple of rows of audience members during the "fight" scene between Masha and her (adopted) sister Sonia (the wonderful Toni DiBuono) in their Snow White costumes. (Well, Masha is in HER Snow White costume, but Sonia has co-opted the concept by adding her version of Maggie Smith to the Evil Queen, which Masha is none to happy about since Masha got her non-famous sister invited to the party and had wanted her to be one of Snow White's DWARFS instead! "Everything seems wrong today!!!" Masha laments.) Anyway, at The Cleveland Playhouse (2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award Winner!) there was a vertical strip of lights on the far wall audience left, that I could stare into while Sonia is fretting to Vanya about not remembering Italian, that would help me to get the actual tears to flow out if I stared at them long enough while giving focus stage right to Sonia and Vanya. But here at Geva Theatre Center, the lights are singular and further away. So I love it when my hair is kind of in my face, or a speck of dust has lodged in my false eyelashes, tickling my eyes to help with the physical tears' eruption. When my mother died on Mother's Day, 13 days ago, those next few performances the water-flow was easier to achieve, since the sadness was skin-deep at that point. She's in a much better place, so my sisters and I have only love and a sense of freedom for her now. Bless your spirit, my dear mother. I feel it with me always....
But, one thing I learned while I was looping lines for a very famous, groundbreaking Academy Award winning film three years ago, (I can't divulge which one or they will take my first born ;),) was that while I was in the sound studio, watching this Academy Award winning actress's performances up on a huge screen in front of me, and recording her grunts and groans and fear of being left out in the Universe by herself, I actually experienced the feelings she must have been feeling, by BREATHING with her, in the same rhythm in which she had filmed those scenes. By the end of the 9 hours of recording some of her lines and a lot of her "expressions", I was emotionally spent from the extreme emotional rollercoaster her character experienced throughout the film.
I employ my breath in such a way in this #VanyaAndSoniaAndMashaAndSpike Act 2, scene 1 scene in order to get the rhythm of the tears to come when they should. There are many moments in the scene when I WANT to cry, but Bruce Jordan, rightly, directed me not to cry until Masha and Sonia explode in angst about the futility of their lives, which Vanya comes back with tea to his surprise. It's a very interesting acting challenge that I welcome wholeheartedly every performance.
It's very musical. The rhythm of it. And how the breath can help, and should help, one to achieve the necessary emotional connection we actors need in every scene. I love discovering this, along with the relaxation and focus needed, every performance.
What a gift this show has been for me. I am so very grateful on so very many levels for this experience. Thank you to Meg Pantera, my agent, and to Paul Fouguet, of Elissa Meyers Casting, for starting me on this highly rewarding journey.
Photo by Roger Mastroianni http://www.rogermastroianni.com