'The art of our necessities is strange,
And can make vile things precious.'
King Lear in King Lear
My show closed last night after another two show Saturday. Twelve performances in all since we opened a two week run. I am exhausted—and exhilarated. I’m as close to euphoric as I get. I have no voice, no energy, and yet I feel truly happy. I have survived. I have survived with my reputation intact. I have survived, and I have earned a different kind of respect from my students who shared the stage with me. I have earned more respect from those I teach but will never work with on stage. The respect comes as a result of the work I produced, yes, but more importantly, it comes from their understanding of what I went through to produce that work and to do it in performance. It is the kind of respect and understanding that only those who share an experience can know. It is the kind of understanding that those I teach with will never have—unless they choose to do what I did or unless they get drafted into battle as I was.
It’s been three weeks since my last day off. I worked on little sleep. I got home at 11:30 p.m. and hit the bed at about 1:00 am. (Many cast members came home to do their homework and write papers.) Three days a week I teach early classes. On those days I teach for three hours straight. When I had no meetings, I made sure to get home to meditate so I would have the energy to perform a difficult and draining role. I did little else but teach and act during the run. The show ran about two hours and 30 minutes with intermission. We had to be there an hour and 15 minutes before curtain time so that we would have time to do our group vocal warm-up. On two-show days that’s about eight hours not counting the drive in and home. I needed to get home between shows on two show days—a twenty minute drive for me each way—to get the fake blood out of my hair. (The showers in the theatre were a horror.) I hurt my voice on tech weekend and had to nurse it on some days by making alternate vocal choices. Not easy when you must wail to the gods and have your eyes gouged out on stage in front of an expectant audience. From dress rehearsal on, I had to be careful about what I ate as well. My digestive system is iffy. What I eat and when I eat affects me stomach, and I can get diverticulitis. I ate carefully at all times. We have no understudies.
I survived it all and now I am smiling. And the smile won’t leave my face. Only my fellow soldiers—my dear students—understand. They’re smiling too. We will always have that—together.