Do you remember your first love? Your mad teenage crush? Maybe a new beautiful relationship or simple intense infatuation? Whatever scenario you remember you can most likely remember the amount of time you spent thinking about that person, that relationship There were probably many minutes, hours or weeks spent daydreaming about the object of your affection. You may have fantasized or imagined scenarios playing out involving the two of you. Maybe you have even been lucky enough to have lived through or are currently involved in a wonderful relationship. Now think of playing a part in a show as similar to a relationship. The intensity of the relationship is equal to the power you feel as you fall in love with the show.
I recently was involved in a show that I absolutely fell in love with. It was not an easy show. It was not a light, jazz hands, sparkly kind of show. It was instead a deeply emotional and timely show about mental illness, lack of communication, and letting go of love to be able to live. It was a BIG show in every sense of the word. This show was a 2 hour rock musical, much like an opera; constant and intense. There were six cast members. It was passionate and fierce. This show, while being mentally, physically and emotionally taxing was the most fun creative challenge… and I absolutely LOVED it.
I was in a relationship with this show, the cast and the supporting players. I was mentally living with my character and with the other five characters for five months. The cast had a strong bond and the relationships between the characters were intense. It was magical, like any new relationship can be. It was one of those rare times in life where all the people were working together toward a shared goal. Relationships were forged instantly and built on respect and honesty. Our collective energy was shared and celebrated regularly.
I fell head-over-heels for all of it. This show was extremely challenging, full of hard work and dedication, demanding of my time and commitment while being completely soul fulfilling, extremely fun and exciting… just like a good relationship should be.
It is now done. Gone. Finished. Complete. Like many breakups, it ended abruptly. I knew it was coming, of course, but I was not ready for it to be over. Suddenly, I was not seeing the people I had been seeing 4-5 times per week for hours on end. I no longer needed to interact with the character, to inhabit the traits, or remember the songs and scripted lines, leaving empty space in my mind. The constant need to experience the feelings, emotions, actions, physicality, and relationships of this character, or relationships to the other characters was no longer necessary. I had to let it all go. With a show that you fall in love with this seems to happen slowly, over time, with sadness and longing. With other shows, that were more like a fling or a one night stand, this process can less jarring, more immediate. But make no mistake you have to break up with the show.
Of course this kind potent breakup does not happen every time. For me it happens only when I feel profoundly connected to a show and its cast. In fact, I have been walking around feeling a void like I have misplaced something, but I am not sure what. I have been unsure of what to do with my new found free time and have been looking for other shows to go to, to see if there is magic in them that might help ease my breakup blues.
Like many breakups this take some time to get over. Each day away from the show separates you, a little bit more, from the constant presence that was in your mind/body/soul . Each new day offers the opportunity to focus back on yourself and the real people and relationships in your life. I know some people love to jump right into a new show, however, for me, especially with this last show, I need time to reconnect with real life. I need time to return focus to myself, my family, my work, my writing and the relationships that live, forever, in my heart.
I have come to realize that breaking up is part of the joy of doing theater, for me. I learned so much throughout the process of becoming and letting go of this last character. I was honored to play her; she was a force to be reckoned with. I worked hard to portray her with dignity, grace and authenticity. I felt as if I was involved in a crash course in empathy and humanity. Little bits of this character; her strength, her vulnerability, her perseverance have stuck with me and I hope that these traits will continue to linger and get woven into the fabric of who I am.
… And like all breakups, good or bad, over time there will be the passing of this love affair and prospect of new love. I know a fun crush or deep romance, in the form of a new show or character, will show up on the horizon and it will be time to fall in love once again. Until then, I am going to enjoy this breakup and remember the good times we had.