God is telling me, I am in my season! I was blessed to have been offered an opportunity to be in a play on the first day of June, which also is my birth month. I am glad to be in a happy place in my life as far as living out my dreams and working to make them come true. This experience has brought to mind why I am taking my time to get back into acting. There are a lot of things I need to reacquaint myself with as far as getting comfortable in being more free and open. That is what I miss the most about acting, being able to be vulnerable and honest even if I am not living out my life but someone else’s.
The opportunity that I was fortunate to have came very last minute. The moment I found out about it was a few hours away from the starting time of the rehearsal for that day. When I walked in with the other actors, that I did not know, I felt a true sense of nervousness being in a space with people who already knew one another and had a good working relationship. Something I had missed but didn’t realize I had missed was the warm up routines. They were an opportunity to get lose, get familiar, and get more comfortable with the people you are going to work with. As I was a last minute add on, I had to be able to pick up very fast on what was going on. Having the ability to be flexible helped me fall into place, and pick up and do what was already being done with minimal direction.
The second day of rehearsal for me and the day of the performance was very more intensive on the warm ups and practice. We did the normal body and vocal warm ups. Then we did a few “get-to-know-you” exercises. The first was “shark attack.” The purpose of this activity was to show who were team players and generous. There were pieces of newspaper set on the ground and we had to swim around in “shark-infested” water. The papers represented islands that we had to get on in order to be safe from the sharks. As each round progressed islands started to vanish making it more challenging to stay alive.
The next game we played was similar to “Red light, green light.” There was an additional catch, we had to play as a group to retrieve a key and bring it back across the team line. If the person that was the “Grandmother” asked you if you had the key you had to answer truthfully. You could pass the key around, just couldn’t throw it or slide it on the ground.
The next exercise was to walk around the room and stop when the director clapped and make eye contact with someone in the room. You had to look them up and down from head to toe and toe to head. This was a challenge for me because I often struggle with eye contact with strangers as well as being in a close space with another person. There was one person I matched up with one time that I was extremely uncomfortable with because he had an intense and focused gaze. We were standing less than a foot away from each other. In that moment my eyes were telling how uncomfortable and unsure I was of myself to stare at another man in an extremely close proximity. In retrospect I realize I need to look at myself in a mirror more often. I just need to stand there and get comfortable in my skin.
The last exercise we did was to make up a story as a group. We would go around the circle randomly and pick up the story from the previous person. When we were passing the story we had to do it in the voice of our character. This was somewhat difficult for me because I had not quite yet developed a voice for my character, an elder. Even when I had to take on the voice of another character I felt unease. That exercise was probably one of the most challenging I have ever done as an actor. Then, the director added an additional thing to work on, take on the story with the voice and the emotion that you feel the character gives throughout the play. This was by far the hardest concept I ever had to work on. That was because I am used to having more time to just practice. All of these different exercises made me want to get back into acting more than ever because it is a thrill for me.
When we finished rehearsing, we changed back to our normal clothes and then had lunch from Jimmy John’s. During and after lunch we ironed out a few more details and started packing for our trip to DC. All cars were loaded with people, props, and costumes and we were on the way. In my car there were three males. I rode in the front seat and had started writing this entry then. On the ride we got a little familiar with one another. Somewhere between Fredericksburg and DC, I got real tired and fell asleep. That was probably because I had two late nights in a row. We arrived in the city about an hour earlier than we were scheduled to report to the venue. This was good because we had a little time to grab a drink and a snack because it was a hot day and we were wearing all black.
Time was here for us all to be in the space of the venue and practice blocking on the stage where we would be. It took us quite a while to actually get on stage to do any blocking because there were several other groups doing the same thing. They went over the time allotted to them to practice using the space, which held us up significantly. Once they were all done we had our chance to get semi-familiar with the stage. It took us all of ten minutes to do our blocking, test to find out if our voices traveled to the back of the auditorium with understanding. After we blocked everything, we had about a two-hour break. In that time we ran lines several times and took a break. Some people walked around to go watch the program. A few just sat and reviewed their lines. A couple of people and I took a much needed nap. When it was about 30 minutes to show time we all got up and put our costumes on and got in the zone for the task at hand.
After what felt like a 10-15 minute comedic introduction by our director we were set to perform. We went on the stage, and everyone did exactly what we were supposed to and it was over. The audience seemed to truly enjoy it because they applauded with much passion.
Being that it was so late, we changed our clothes. Packed up all of our costumes and props and hopped in our respective cars to return home. Home, sweet, home was all I remember feeling when we pulled into the parking lot back home. During the first week of June, I saw articles shared by one of the cast members that talked about the event and how we were the highlight of the entire program. The following week we had a “Wrap Up” gathering or as I know it Cast Party at one of the cast mates house. While there we talked about a variety of things such as the impact of our performance had on the event, race relations in Richmond; and the cultural perception of African Americans to Americans.