The end of a theatre season is a time of reflection – not to mention exhaustion. Alum gal PJ Hammond (who has done pretty much every job there is to do at the theatre) sent me the following thoughts and asked that I post them on the blog. Here’s what she had to say:
There are two phenomena in theatre that we all recognize, but don’t always talk about. Two phenomena that happen to me with some regularity.
The first is “Show Crush.” As an actor, your job is to be emotionally vulnerable, to live in dangerous moments and to make connections with those with whom you share the stage. When you do this well, it creates a film of reality over what you are pretending to do, and is a very intimate experience.
So, it is not surprising to anyone when co-stars in a romance feel that romance more personally. But maybe surprising to some is the general crush between any two people in a cast and crew that often happens in theatre.
The rehearsal period is intense. You give up other engagements to be in a play. Your focus is the show, and only the show. That focus is shared with others in the production, but not with your circle of friends and family (although my friends patiently listen to me babble). So, you huddle together inside this intimate, intense experience with people who are talented and inspiring. This is a fertile land for Show Crush.
But it also inevitably leads to “Show Crash.”
The intensity of the rehearsal period builds until it gives way to Performance. The very nature of live performance demands that you experience things on stage, and that experience, again, is shared with cast and crew in a vastly different way than it is shared with audience. It’s a little like us and them, and the “us” part has had weeks or months to bond.
And then the show is over.
You are shipped back to your regular life, like a decommissioned soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress. There is a lot of time, but not a lot to do. There are friends and family to spend time with, but nothing to talk about, because they didn’t experience the same thing that you did. There is an expectation that you must be satisfied with a job well done or relieved to have finished, but privately there is a desire to make it better, try different things and work the process some more. There is sadness, a slow dulling of your senses, and a crash that can last for weeks.
During rehearsals and performance, you live within the clear constraints of the play, challenging yourself to be more present. But you don’t bring your real life with you.
Ultimately you go back to your day job, friends and family, and you leave that sense of aliveness behind you.
For me (and maybe for you), the real challenge is to ride these waves of Crush and Crash, and to meld the disparate facets of my life into one real and present sense of being.