Actors have moments they would rather redo - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Actors have moments they would rather redo

Been there.

Done that.

Would rather forget that, but can’t seem to. No one really noticed, I think.

Ah, yes, I’m talking about my  goofs and gaffes during the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company summer performance of Pride and Prejudice at the the historic Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland. Instead of the director’s cut, I give you the actor’s cut featuring mostly me. Roll it.

2012 Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 4.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:55 p.m.  Audience: Electric.

I fear it.  The dead air on stage.  The moment the brain farts and scene smells like sulphur.  My brain withdraws – suspended between acting world and real world, madly debating which to return to.  The angels debate on my shoulders.  Good Angel – stay with it.  Stay in character.  Bad Angel – break it.  Acknowledge you messed up.

However nonsensical it may be, I follow Alice down the rabbit hole.  I stay with it, searching, grasping, flailing, and falling.  Is this a fall to my death?  I see my acting life – however short – flash before my eyes.  I see my Fagin’s Boy,Aunt Abby, and Ariel (how have I only played little boys, old ladies, and pixies?).  Then I see everyone I’ll never be: Meryl StreepTina Fey, and Emma Stone – cackling at me.  Ruing my demise.

I am wearing the right thing here. I’m fourth from left or second from right. (Courtesy photo.)

The seconds pass.  One.  Say something.  Two.  Say something.  Three.  Say something.

It’s that awkward moment I dread hearing on the radio – when no one’s talking and someone should be talking.

The line comes.  I doubt it’s the right one.  I slur it.  Is my character drunk?

Good Lord in heaven – did I say anything coherent?  Did I say the right thing?  I think I mixed up someone’s name… Did I call my dad my crush’s name?  Or my crush my dad’s name?  Who am I talking to?

It’s that horrifying moment when I text the wrong person – when I send the text to the person I’m talking badly about.  I can’t take it back.

The audience is silent.  Then a laugh.  They’re still with me.  Thank,  Jesus.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 6.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:53 p.m.  Audience: Quiet.

My face is hot.  I know I look like a full blown tomato – red faced and anxious.  How could I forget to remove my pinnafore before entering the ball scene?  Now I look like a peasant in court.  Everyone is looking at my pinnafore. They probably aren’t but I think they are. And this is the only chance I have to expose my costume without the pinnafore covering it… Gah!

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 7.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:54 p.m.  Audience: Engaged.

I remember to take my pinnafore off tonight.  “Take your f*ing pinnafore off,” I chant in my head like a mantra, reprimanding and reminding myself, as I exit the scene to prepare for the ball.  I dance.  My face isn’t the color of a fruit.  Success.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 10.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:53:30 p.m.  Audience: Boisterous.

Right now I’m thinking about that Batman review that I didn’t participate in. Pick me out. (Courtesy Photo)

I walk into the ball tonight, curtsy, and, to my extreme horror, I see my pinnafore is still on my body.  In front of the party’s host, I unfasten it.  “Hurry,” I think, “my line’s coming.”  I throw the pinnafore to my onstage sister, who runs it off stage (I’ll need it in the next scene).  I make it in time for my line, but I have no idea what I say.  I move stage left.  My brain is on fire.  I left the pinnafore on again.  But I also took it off.  And made my line.  Phew.  Safe.  Upon leaving the ball, I bow again to the host.  We don’t have lines for the audience to hear, but he takes delight in whispering to me, “Thank you for the strip show you gave earlier.”  Mortified.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 11.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:33 p.m.  Audience: Dead.

I stand in a cluster of actors, having a fake conversation onstage.  We debate a midnight movie or cosmic bowling after the show.  My ears are hot.  I’m trying to listen for my cue, but find myself chiming in for cosmic bowling and defending black lights and late night DJ’s.  Dead air.  My ears ring.  I missed it!  I only have twenty five lines in this play and I miss one!  “Look, there’s Mr. Denny,” I shriek.  I cue Noah to enter.  However late.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 12.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:32 p.m.  Audience: Active.

Determined not to miss my cue, I ignore the cast’s fake conversation of the Batman review of the night before and listen and wait and listen and wait.  I pick up my cue.  “Look, there’s Mr. Denny.”  No dead air.  Perfect timing.  Success.  Except dead air follows.  Noah isn’t there to pick up his cue.  Fail.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 14.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:31 p.m.  Audience: Despondent.  

My mouth is open like a gaping pie hole.  Here comes line number nine.  But before sound can come out, my scene partner, José, says his next line.  José skips my line.  I tap him on the shoulder back stage.  Trying not to accuse, I explain.  Hey – I only have 25 lines in this play.  I’m going to say them.  All of them. That’s 25 lines.

Note to self: Remove José from Christmas card list.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Performance 15.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:31 p.m.  Audience: Energized.

José doesn’t jump my line.  I say all 25 lines tonight.

Note to self: Put José back on the Christmas card list.

2012.  Pride and Prejudice.  Personal Debriefing.  Role: Kitty Bennet.  8:00 p.m.  Audience: N/A

Over all – a good run.  Missed cues were nominal and any potential for scarring is minimal.  After all – the audience doesn’t usually notice the mess ups that we do in our  make-believe life only perhaps in our real life. That’s a good thing about acting. I get a chance to fix those things and no one holds them over my head the rest of my life.

 


About the author

Jana Stambaugh

Jana (it rhymes with “banana” or “anna”) is an artist from Clarksville, Maryland. Growing up her parents always told her to “be whatever you want to be.” Seeing as she has come from three generations of doctors, she obviously became an artist. As an actor, she has performed internationally Off-Broadway, and locally to the Baltimore/DC area. Favorite roles include Juliet, Ariel, and Caliban. Jana is the Founder of Red Connect Online, a social media marketing company that creates customized advertising campaigns for small businesses. You can listen to her podcast, Confessions of a Closet Christian, on the E-Squared Media Network. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Jana_Stambaugh) and friend her on Facebook. Contact the author.
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