Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mimesis... Acting... Becoming.

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”
~Shakespeare, As You Like It

“The individual “assimilates” himself or herself to the world via mimetic processes.  Mimesis 
makes it possible for individuals to step out of themselves, to draw the outer world into their 
inner world, and to lend expression to their interiority. 
~Gebauer and Wulf.  Mimesis: Culture - Art - Society.  Don Reneau,
trad.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.  2.
So, about three and a half weeks ago, my good friend Carey came to me with a part in her Shakespeare "café theater" show.  Due to unforeseen circumstances and scheduling issues, one of her actors would be unable to do a particular scene, and she wondered if I might be interested in playing the role of Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  It didn't take me very long to make the decision.  YES!  

Little did I know what would have to take place in order to transform into Helena... I'm still not entirely sure a total transformation has taken place.  What I do know is that learning this part and rehearsing it all day last Saturday and Sunday were exhausting... in a good way.  Trying to become another person is, well, not easy.  And trying to do that in a context that demands a certain level of movement to keep the audience engaged and a certain clarity of voice and diction to make sense out of Shakespeare?  Well, it's pushed my limits, challenged me in ways I didn't expect.  I'm used to things coming easily, and this?  Not so easy.  During the dress rehearsal, we actually had to stop our scene.  We just had no idea where we were... granted, the dress rehearsal was in a different location, so we literally DIDN'T know where we were.  But still... it ended with me in tears and thinking--what have I gotten myself into?  If the scene goes like that on Friday, well, it just CAN'T!  People are paying to see this, and our scene closed the show. 

Needless to say, I was nervous when it came time to do the show last night.  The other actors had set the bar high, and I wanted to match them. (Seriously, this cast was AMAZING!  I love these people!)  There were 85 guests at the Ethnobar, and it was the first time we would be doing our scenes with people actually in the seats we would be jumping over.  And you know what??? WE DID IT!  The show went really well.  People have asked us if we will be doing repeat performances, and we're already doing it again in June at the Fringe Festival.  It's amazing how much progress you can make in such a short period of time, how much you can get to know your character and grow to trust the other members of your cast.  It's also strange how much of an out-of-body experience it is... all of a sudden, our scene and the whole show was over.  Back to real life again... weird. I also realized this was my first true acting experience in English.   My limited experience elsewhere has only been in French... Hector in La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu and my improv group here.  I definitely want to keep doing theater in the future, any way I can.  There is nothing like it... because even as you are attempting to "become" another person, who you are is slowly becoming something else, too. 

(That last line reminds me of a character in our French play, a Russian theater expert, Vladimir, who says, "Le théâtre n'est pas... il devient."  True indeed.)


  1. Nice, Mary! I knew it would turn out well and I'm so very glad it did! I hope you get many opportunities to keep shining in theater!

  2. Mary!

    I loved your last post, and I also love this one.

    Did you just get into acting recently? And you're in an improv group? LIke improv comedy-- in french?! That sounds awesomely challenging, would love to hear more about it in another post :)

  3. I'm so glad that it went well! Although I do have to say that I am not at all surprised that you pulled off an awesome performance on your big night. :) That must have been a thrilling experience.