RE(nt) – Cap (Thank You)

Posted: December 17, 2009 in Road to RENT

December 13, 2009

“So, do you think you will do some regular plays?”

My mother spoke in my direction, a piece of cloth in her hands, her fingers running through the fabric. I hesitantly gazed back at her, playfully agitated that she would ask such an easily answered question:

“Um, I only like doing musicals.”

I buried my head back into my laptop, knowing my response would merit the sounds of agreement. My mother shot back:

“How do you know that when you have never done a straight play before? Kind of like this, you didn’t know how much you liked it until you tried.”

I rolled my eyes, half because I knew she was right, the other half because I had broken one of my unspoken commandments pertaining to embarking upon new journey’s in life, or revisiting old one:

Thou Shalt Never Say What Thy Won’t Do!

I spoke back, humility highlighted in my voice:

“You’re right.”

That was weeks ago, before the soul attaching bacteria, named acting, entered my body.

I ripped into Borders on a mission. Fumbling through the book catalog computers, I found the section my desire laid in – African American Literature. Having made a clumsy attempt at finding my book in the drama section, I couldn’t help but think:

How can a play be African American Literature? What made it so different from the ample number of Death of a Salesmen scripts I tossed to the side?

I found the allotted section and began to thumb through the F’s.

Fences, Fences, Fences… hmmmmm

As I reached the G’s I wondered if they had any in stock. I looked to my left. A petite lady with a stack of children’s books in her hand was assisting an older couple bent on purchasing something to do with sewing, or quilts or crocheting. I waited for them to walk away, tutored myself on how to ask for help and walked over:

“Um, where exactly is the African American Literature section?”

She pointed me back in the direction for which I had come.  I wanted to double back slap her as I detected a bit of sarcasm in her point. I calmed myself, and disciplined my imagination for thinking she knew where I had come from. I turned back around:

“Thank you.”

A lost look hinted at my bewilderment and she seemed to catch on to my lack of awareness. She spoke back, raising her voice as to not have her sound blocked by distance and obtrusive background noise:

“They are in alphabetical order by author.”

I punched myself in the forehead as a light bulb finally ignited, dimly:

“By last name, right?”

She nodded and went back to placing her books in their perspective section. I tilted my head and laughed at my ignorance:

To be someone who loves to write, I sure know very little about books themselves. How could I forget that books are categorized by author’s last name? I need to be caned with wet bamboo.

I ran to the computer, realizing that I had no knowledge of the author’s name, and finally located the book I needed. I picked it up, thumbed through it and then placed it back. My eyes traced to another book that looked similar, yet with a different name, and then another. I quietly whispered:

“Is this play like some trilogy, one building off the next?”

I worried myself thin as I contemplated if I was willing to buy the entire line simply for an audition. I put them all back, only holding the book with the name I had searched and sat down, right in the middle of the aisle.

People maneuvered around me as I pieced together my willingness to pay nearly forty dollars for an audition. Something within me spoke:

“Open the book and thumb through it, genius.”

I grabbed the first collection of pages my hands could grasp and tore it open. A quote was the first thing that came into view:

When the sins of our fathers visit us

We do not have to play host

We can banish them with forgiveness

As God, in His Largeness and Laws

~August Wilson


Hmmmm, I think I might enjoy this.

I threw the book on its face and fingered through to the last page:

Okay, this is the right book. It’s only one play. This dude was just an excited playwright with the same publishing picture scheme.

I went to the counter, paid for my twelve dollar selection and finished my errands for the day. I sat fences on my bed and planned to read it the first chance I got.

This day, as I sped through the wet streets, a dense fog on my window underlining my forgetfulness of activating my heat, I looked forward to working with the leads. Because of my split in characters, I was called upon to add a few seconds of drama to the stage, the fist pounder coming subject to her aching desire and my magical assess to that which she yearned.

I turned the corner towards the auditorium and burst through, the leads already immersed in their rehearsal. My part was nowhere near, so I moseyed down the aisle, calmly, the dark-haired dude greeting my arrival:

“Hey, Jeremy!”

Upon seeing my figure, which was hidden behind an oversized sweatshirt and pants and a baseball cap turned backwards, the dark-haired dude’s face lit up. His cheeks flushed with red and his hand waved in the air as his voice jumped an octave. I fell into shock:

Wow, no one, outside my family, has greeted me like that since I graduated from school in Miami. And now, the dark-haired dude has just broken through the concentration of the room to acknowledge me as if he were glad I existed.

It was an amazing feeling, as if old friends were suddenly reconnected. His tone reminded me of my days in undergrad, walking through campus being stopped at every corner for a chat, hug and, at times, a change in motivation as someone was whisking me off to partake in one of their sudden adventures.

It felt warm.

Not speaking out, I grinned back as to not interrupt their work. I made my way onto the stage only to be stopped by the music director:

”Oh, sorry Jeremy…”

I thought I had come on the wrong day. He continued:

“…we aren’t going to get to your part for a while.”

I grabbed my things and headed for the auditorium seats. He stopped me again:

“You are welcomed to stay up here, or take a seat, or stay, or take a seat… It’s up to you.”

I danced back and forth in his words, trying to figure out just what I wanted to do. He smiled and I returned the favor, but with a more strangled, mind twisting decision poking in my head, I stayed.

Ten seconds later, I went and sat down.

Eventually, I was called/volunteered to stand in for a missing lead character. I fumbled through the words and tried to imagine how exactly they would be portrayed to the other cast mates. I eventually settled into an explanation:

“Why does this character talk so much?”

In the song, his lines were particularly long, with hand written inserts, where other words were supposed to go. I skipped over some, made some up and eventually paused when my tongue got too tied to cooperate. It was amazing, I was making beautiful mistakes on a piece that was not mine. I enjoyed the learning process.

I snuck over to over the moon and gave her a warm embrace. I feared that I had squeezed her too hard as all my appreciation for her presence rushed out of me on her approach. She was a great example and motivation for this new journey of mine. She spoke out:

“Wow, you are going to crack my back. I need that.”

I smiled and held back on saying:

“Oh, I do know how to crack backs, even if it doesn’t work with my mother sometimes.”

Later, as we crossed paths again, over the moon spoke, her smile lighting up her face:

“You know, you can be the unofficial understudy for everyone, since you are always doing someone else’s part.”

I laughed and caught a glimpse of her thought process. She went on:

“I want to see you do my number Over The Moon. I think I will fake sick so you will have to perform it.”

I mimicked her motions to the song and laughed at how absurd I would look in a halter and tights jumping around the stage. I added to her vision:

“Actually, what I am going to do is make up one side of my body up like a woman, and the other like a man…”

Over the moon interjected:

“Two-Faced!”

I continued on:

“Yeah, and then when one song glory and the fist pounder start singing Light My Candle, I am gonna pull the curtain, cut their microphones and start singing. “

I mimicked both of their singing parts as I turned from one side to the other. Over the moon laughed to see such sport and was quickly called to the stage as I stood next to Mojo, wondering just what to do. I didn’t know what to discuss, so I just asked the first thing that came to mind:

“Are you an alto?”

She replied, after placing her voice into a low note, causing my stomach to shake with joy:

“Um, yeah… well…”

I interrupted:

“You sure you aren’t a mezzo-soprano. I mean I listen to your voice and it’s so unique. I love the tone of it.”

She fixed her lips into an explanation of being able to reach mezzo notes, but how she was more comfortable belting in the alto range. I went on with my appraisals:

“Oh, I am just amazed by you. Growing up, in church, I only thought that bigger people could hold that belting higher range, and then I see you, this amazingly huge voice encased in such a petite body. It’s awesome.”

She smiled and went to offer my ears a bit more entertainment, only to be taken away by the main director:

“Mojo, stage left.”

Mojo whispered to me:

“Sorry, I gotta go.”

I watched her scurry across the stage and take position. I kicked myself, literally, in the butt for sounding so ridiculously dense:

Who says things like that? Was I on a mission to bring forth all my idiosyncrasies when it came to singing and theatre? I said I thought only bigger people could belt. WHAT?!?!

It was definitely a feeling of mine growing up, as I had little knowledge on the whole vocal spectrum. I thought:

Yeah, but do I really have to tell people…

I laughed.

I walked to the backroom to find the dark-haired dude hydrating himself. I fixed my lips to speak, but nothing I wanted to say came out. He spoke first:

“Man, I am so dehydrated.”

I fixed my lips again, but only a puff of air came out. I nodded my head, my thoughts taking flight:

What am I supposed to say now?

I smiled nervously. I could see that this whole new world was still taking my breath away, so much so that my thoughts and vocal control were intertwined in a state of confusion. I knew I would eventually be able to reconnect with sanity, but, at the moment, being lost in disheveled shyness was quite all right.

Finally, after almost being apologetically dismissed, it came time for me to stage out my scene with the fist pounder. Other than standing in for her staged love interest, and silent interactions, being the background of a wider scene, I hadn’t gotten chance to work with her. And of course, our union came with one of the creepiest scenes in the play.

As the music dipped into a beautifully harmonious harsh chord, I started my plight. I completely submerged myself in the character and followed the main director’s instructions as best I could. When the music ended and the scene fell to a close, I jumped, literally, trying to reach outside my skin:

“I feel creepy!”

The music director chimed in:

“Well, it is sort of a creepy scene.”

I shook like a worm on a hook trying to dislodge the sinister emotions the character called for:

“Every time I do it, I feel so creeptastic and strange.”

The main director chimed in:

“Well, since you feel that way, let’s do it again!”

I laughed.

I loved him for it.

Although the feeling was uncomfortable I knew, even if it was in jest, that he merely wanted me to connect with that feeling so that I could portray it to the audience, to the fist pounder and, most importantly, to myself. I had to exude the candy coating of creepiness.

It was a revelation I hadn’t grasped until earlier in the rehearsal.

Waiting for my start, pecking away at my laptop, the main director came and sat near me:

“How are you doing?”

I turned and answered:

“Great, and yourself?”

He responded, with a shrug:

“Not too bad!”

I wanted to capitalize on his unsteady answer with a:

“Why not great?”

But, I cowered away with the notion of trying to not sound too cheesy. He then asked me about my intentions:

“So are you going to audition for fences? I know you said you were unsure about it, so what have you decided?”

I could hear the audition process beginning in the background, right outside the auditorium doors. I spoke back:

“Well, I really wanted to, but seeing that this is all new for me, and I haven’t completed RENT yet, I think it is just too much too soon, ya know?”

I looked onto him, hoping he understood what I meant. He nodded:

“I understand.”

I felt it needed more of an explanation:

“You know, for now I want to complete this process, this journey before I venture out to doing the two plays at the same time deal, like them.”

I motioned towards the stage with one song glory and beanie torn pants in mind. I finished:

“You know, if I get it, then I will be splitting between the two rehearsals and I think it may be a little much for me, right now, at this point.”

He continued to look onto me, shaking his head in agreement, he spoke:

“I understand, but you are very talented!”

I froze.

A strangled smile distorted my face. I didn’t know how to reply. I was paralyzed to all responses, but I was finally able to mutter:

“Thank You.”

My head screamed out:

Oh my biscuits, what does he see in me, and why does he believe in me so?

The feeling was amazing, sobering, humbling. But I didn’t know how to handle it. I ran the emotions through my mental database:

The main director believes in me, and it’s not that I don’t believe in myself, it is just I am in awe at what he sees, what anyone sees. Every time he speaks to me it is as food to my soul, replenishing any empty space that has crept up in me. And with is word I can only stare. It’s as if thank you is the feeblest of explanations for the gratitude I possess for his encouragement.

I don’t, now, possess the riches of a king or the influence of a politician, so I think to myself:

But what I do have, I shall use.

In that moment, I knew I had made the right decision to totally give myself over to the RENT production. It is only fitting that I never forget that he has taken a chance on me, saw something in me despite my N/A status.

Therefore, I will thank him by fully pouring into his vision and bringing his directions to life. I will thank him by displaying that which he seems to truly believe in, that reservoir within. I will thank him by giving all that I can to this opportunity he has extended to me.

Somewhere, someway, radiating from my actions, I hope that he will see me breathing life into his dream and with that…

… I will thank him.

_____________________

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” ~ Lou Holtz

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