So I'm not an actor. But a couple times a week I'll dress up like one and fake it for a couple hours. Okay. Usually I prefer the techie roll--running around, Getting Stuff Done, and sniggering at the actor types. What is this "getting into character?" What do you mean you need someone to find your missing prop? Do it yourself! What--you can't focus with the stagehands talking so loudly--hey, they have a stressful job, leave 'em alone.
Tonight, however, I find I have a little more empathy for the actor types. My story has been cancelled for the last three times I was scheduled, meaning I haven't performed (or, um, rehearsed) in nearly two weeks. The story, like all good stories, stays with me, but it also means that I haven't been in stays, skirts or heels for two weeks. Like I said--I have a new appreciation for actors, and I now understand why they always go whining for their costumes as early as possible. Did I say "whining?" I meant "asking." And the heels--they're not even real heels! I've eaten sandwiches that stand taller than these heels. But they're enough to trip me up--get it done girl that I am. (note for feminist friends: by "girl" I obviously mean "woman" but chose the diminutive because it scanned better.) Anyway.
I was performing in the Wythe kitchen, a new place for me, a small, unheated house with a deadly uneven brick floor. Whilst trying to figure out how I was going to work this new place the two attendants were getting a fire going and setting up the candles--and then they disappeared. Leaving me to realise too late that the candleholder was in a bad place. I could have used that room, but I didn't want to move the candleholder--it's a big metal stand that sits on a piece of fabric, and if I'd've moved it, it would have dripped wax either on me or the floor. Okay, fine.
But then...oh then. After the first tour went through, the fire was burning low. I mean--verge of going out low. I was sitting there, embroidering ("no stamp act!"), fretting about the fire, and I finally said "screw it, if I don't do something, this fire is going to go out." Did I mention the kitchen is unheated? It's unheated. A lot unheated, especially since the temp is hovering around thirty-three degrees tonight. The fire was built upside down, meaning the biggest logs were on the bottom. I tried dragging them around with the poker, but they soon got hung up on the firedogs. Nothing for it. I pulled off my mitts and dove in with both hands, rebuilding the fire properly (thanks, dad), and in the process dragging the hem of my petticoat through the ashes. I was dirty, I was upset, I was wondering where my attendant was--more importantly, when was the next tour going to get here?--and I was totally unfocussed.
All this just a long way of saying that I now have new understanding when actors get overwhelmed or distracted. Little things CAN take you out of your zone. Which is why--when I am backstage--I like to be like the ninja: unseen, unanticipated, but always there. I wouldn't compare my experience tonight with an actual show with actual stagehands, but it would have been nice if the person had said "I'll be back to build up the fire later." Fair play, she did show up later, and she was totally willing to run and get more wood to replace the stuff I had thrown on the fire, but I still had the mean thought in the back of my mind, "this isn't my job." Sometimes, sometimes it is my job. I sweep the floor, I prep the props, I push the buttons, I wash the clothes. But sometimes I'm the one who's onstage, who really just needs one effin' moment to get into character and not worry about the fire.