Friday, December 20, 2013

Ghosts of Christmas Past

So I was last here in Louisville ten years ago.  I played a 1930's magician's assistant in a beautiful play called "Orange Lemon Egg Canary."  That's me in the shorts.  The title refers to a magic trick in which the magician peels an orange and inside it he finds a lemon.  He peels the lemon to reveal an egg.  He cracks the egg and a canary flies out.  Cool trick.

I have been trying, since I arrived, to overlay my memory of being in this this theater...with my experiences of the last week.  Merging the map of the city in my head with the streets I'm walking--like superimposing Google maps and street view.  We were here 11 weeks in 2003.  I should be able to remember something.

And I have been failing miserably.  I can't remember which rehearsal room we used ten years ago. I  walk to where I remember the door being, and hit a wall.  Admittedly, the city itself has changed significantly.  We're not staying in the same building we stayed in before.  An effort has been made to revitalize the downtown and there's a HUGE stadium, the KFC YUM! Center (I wish I were making that up) across the street from the theater.  Beyonce sang there not too long ago.  But it is downright disconcerting to know that I was here, know it for a fact, and not remember much of anything.  The Starbucks is where I recall it being--but it looks totally different inside than my memory of it.

And then there's the fact that I did "Our Town," the same play I'm doing now, fifteen years ago.  And much like this city, I remember some of it crystally.  I remember loving being on top of the ladder and listening to the choir practice in the first act.  I remember sitting at the soda fountain.  I can hear the voice of the woman who played my mother loud and clear.  I have to resist falling into some of her line readings.  And yet.  I have been racking my brain and I have absolutely no memory of who played Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs.  I can't picture the kid who played my brother.  The stage manager's words just lurk somewhere right at the back of my head.  Vaguely familiar.  I can taste them in the back of my throat.

I have lived long enough that there are parts of my adult life which are absolute complete blanks.

We have zillions of people in this play.  All 19 young actors who form the theater's apprentice company are in the show.  When they tumble into the rehearsal room, it's like I'm suddenly surrounded by puppies.  Puppies with lots of facial hair and plaid shirts and big glasses and stocking caps.  I have to stop myself from grabbing them and saying, look, I know I seem to you like some forty year old lady who is playing the mom...but about thirty seconds ago I was an unpaid intern and moving the furniture.  Last week I did the scene up on top of the ladder.  Just blink and you'll be Mrs. So-and-so, too.

You'll be finding yourself saying the exact, and I mean the exact, words your mother said to you.  Your fictional mother or your real one.  Or both.  You'll catch yourself saying those same words exactly as she did and trying to at least change the inflection.  After all, you're doing things your own way.  You'll be alone in actor housing five days before Christmas, watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and seeing scenes you swear have never been included in the televised broadcast...and checking twitter to see if this year they're doing some uncut longer version that they've never done before.  Because since when do we see George Bailey as a kid? And finding out that no.  You just simply don't remember it.

Ghosts of Christmas Past. 

In the play "Orange Lemon Egg Canary" the actor playing Great, the magician, does the magic trick on stage.  He peels the orange and lo and behold there's a lemon.  He peels the lemon and reveals an egg.  He cracks the egg...

and it plops to the floor in a sticky mess.

Funny.  I could have sworn a canary flew out.

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