Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tempering the Tears

I have been part of staged readings this year, playing small parts in early drafts of new plays and musicals. The chance to be part of these projects came about thanks to the musical theater workshop classes I had been taking at ANMT, and the inherent networking that came with it.

As a former dancer-singer, I have never considered myself much of an actor, just more of a performer for musical theater and revues. But I love to get lost in a good story. I have been an avid reader for most of my life, and I love the escapism that a story can provide. With these recent readings I don't feel as if I'm acting so much - I'm getting to be part of telling tales, bringing pages to life.

This weekend I will be part of a revamped and revised performance of a new musical called "The Angel of Painted Post," a highly emotional project which we had performed once already, last month. As part of the ensemble, I play one of two fathers who have lost their sons in World War II. Even without ever having been a father, it was natural to get lost in the story of a grieving parent. Maybe having lost beloved pets was enough of a resource to provide method acting for my minor part.

It's a good thing that real tears are appropriate for these fictional characters. It is not difficult to "act" my grief in several parts of the show, including when the other father, a lead character, finds out how his son's life ended, and he expresses with great relief, "He didn't suffer! He didn't suffer!"

It has been too easy to cry, in fact, both during rehearsals and in performance. I avoid looking at the other characters directly, during some of the scenes, in order to temper my level of tears.

The character of the other father, played by Stephen, has a second, surviving son. The surviving son's character was played last month by Stephen's real life son, Daniel. This was one of the most interesting aspects of the rehearsal process for me, not only to observe the two playing fictional father and son characters, but to observe what little I could of their real life relationship.

Stephen, who is a little older than me, has more than two decades worth of theater and music credits. Daniel is 17 and already has impressive acting credits on his resume. Watching Daniel, I kept thinking back to when I was 17-years-old, wondering what it would be like to have a father not only involved in theater arts, but also supportive of his son's performing aspirations.

Daniel has just graduated from high school. Having been accepted to a university was only one of his options. He is going to put college on hold, though, with his parents' blessing, to pursue his other options in film & television, and in other stage productions.

I feel lucky: in the past, a situation like this would have filled me with ugly jealousy. Now, I am only envious, in a wistful and even peaceful way. I have mourned my innner teen enough, but watching Stephen's character grieve is still too emotional for me. The tears flowed too easily, especially when Daniel, his real life son, was right there on the same stage.

I know part of me is grieving for the could've-beens. Watching Daniel, I know that part of me is crying for my own younger self lost in an emotional war. Yet, the tears are cathartic, peaceful . . . an inevitable part of the acceptance process.

I can accept the need to put my former youthful self to rest and move on with both my present and my future. Or I can continue attempting to, at least. The fact that there are any tears at all attest to the fact that this may be my own lifelong work-in-progress.


Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I saw ANMT and thought, "What the hell is Peter doing on America's Next Top Model."

Damn dyslexia.

Peter Varvel said...

Chris, LOL! . . . cuz I'm so pretty! ;)