Hey – I wasn’t blogging for a few weeks – totally MIA for a second. Thinking terrible things? Abduction? Alien interference? Oh my gosh – the theater – it’s a black abyss of never ending consumption. From script analysis and rehearsal to performances – so many performances. It’s as if the rest of my life just stops for a few weeks and I’m simply an actor. And isn’t that what I’m ultimately aiming for? Yes. It’s nice… although it seems to bring out an abandoning quality in me. I didn’t mean to neglect.
Romeo and Juliet provided many firsts for me on stage. We’re talking first sword fight, first onstage death, and first performance kiss. The students we performed for asked an array of inevitably predictable questions.
1) Were you really kissing? Yes.
2) Did you like kissing her/him? Who wouldn’t? (Actors are pretty good looking).
3) Is he/she a good kisser? Yes – we lucked out.
Performance Kiss. Everyone seems a little mystified by the stage kiss. Yes. It is really happening. It’s a real kiss, but it’s very much in the moment and very much serving the scene. The best comparison I came up with is that if a scene calls for a sword fight, there will be a sword fight. If a scene calls for a kiss, there will be a kiss. It’s not gratuitous. End of story. My Romeo, Jamie, told the students that as professional actors, we know going into the process that by playing Romeo and Juliet, we’re going to meet each other and then make out a lot. It’s just how it goes.
Onstage death. This was an incredible exercise of stillness. They should have a Yoga pose for this because it involves deep breathing in an uncomfortable position. Oh wait – isn’t that Savasana – or the “corpse pose?”
Yeah, I don’t usually stay there for very long before my mind wanders to the grocery list. Mmm, cheese. Anyway – playing dead Juliet felt a lot like an extended Savasana. Emphasis on extended. The exercise became challenging as it was not only staying still in Savasana corpse pose, but it was allowing everyone to bemoan and grieve my loss while staying still in Savasana corpse pose. This bemoaning and mourning behavior involved fellow actors shaking, cradling, grasping, laying, crying, and accidentally spitting on my corpse body. And yes, I had to just lie there.
Savasana…Ohm…. It was illuminating in a rather morbid way as it shed light onto what my early departure would look and sound like. It was like being present at my own funeral. …At least, I hope people would shake, cradle, grasp, lay, cry and spit on me should I be found in permanent Savasana (knock on wood, i.e. my head).
Finally, the sword fight. Thank goodness we had some stage combat experts in our cast. Patrick (who stole the show by laughing incredibly. One time.) and Jamie (Romeo) are CSC’s go-tos for stage combat and they put up with me, who feigns stage combat knowledge on a regular basis.
I started out the show as a female Sampson (every actor on the tour played two characters) and I had to bite my thumb and Jamie’s Abram. Then we fought. Thankfully, for my sake, the fight was short and sweet. It involved a huge (fake stage combat knowledge) “turn” in which I made Jamie both duck and jump before I stabbed him in the butt. Yes, the kids loved this.
I will say the most rewarding part of the experience was interacting with the kids before, during, and after the show. After one of the performances for a younger audience, I was backstage changing and our Benvolio came back to say some kids were asking for me and saying, “Where’s the Princess?”
It felt like I was Disney royalty, passing out love, hugs, and thanks to the kids who just wanted a little magic to touch their little hands as I squeezed them. It reminded me of what drew me to theater at an early age: enchantment. And I was reminded that theater isn’t fooling people into thinking I’m something I’m not, it’s telling a greater truth through a greater story and transforming in order to do so. It’s magic.
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.