Feb 24, 2005

Going Toward It

I'm always telling them, you can be anything you want on stage. I reassure them. I explain that Building 17 is freedom's palace if there ever was one. They understand and slowly they're beginning to believe it. The core group gets it; they want more.

Once, I had a warm-up exercise in which the Red people stood perfectly still and silent, while the blue people walked around and said whatever they wanted. Then reverse. I never get involved; I prefer to go around and coach. It's a chance to be a voyeur as well. But this time, since we were short, I played the statue opposite a young actor. This was her first time. She was like a yelping dog around a bear. She backed up and crouched and went into a tirade about her worries, academic and social, but particularly about the theater and here she was taking a real risk by coming and she was afraid, and what was I going to do with her, and how would this all turn out.

We switched roles and I got very close to her, close enough that I could smell smoke in her hair and perfume. It was instantly erotic, being able to talk to her in this way. I whispered in her ear that I wanted her to be a little frightened, I wanted her to take a risk, that was the whole point, to be fearless, I said, and I told her what I had told Marina long ago, one afternoon, on the beach in Malibu. I said to the actor, it's like swimming in the ocean and suddenly here's a set you didn't notice and the waves are too big and too close together to get to the shore, yet the prospect of staying out is frightening, you'll be swept away, you'll be caught by the undertow, and so your instinct is to get in, but you start and the suction is so strong you can't and then you look over your shoulder and there's the wave, gathering up into that marble wall, that lovely, terrifying wall, rising up higher and higher, the marble disolving to black and then finally to deep green, and there you are, in no man's land. Now, you've got to suffer the break and all that boiling white chaos, or else go toward the wave and, just as it breaks, go down and dig your hands into the sand, wait, come up and then swim away from the beach.

And know that as soon as you get to the surface there'll be another wave right there. It will look monstrous and you may have to come up through the kelp, which is heavy and adhesive and you'll have to go down again, and again, and you'll have to go down and really hold on. You may have to do this three or four times, diving and surfacing, and it'll become more and more frightening. You'll begin to doubt. You'll look for help. But there's nobody on the beach and they couldn't hear you anyway.... Eventually, the sets will clear. You'll forget that; but there'll be an opening. "Go toward it," I said, looking at the side of her face, enjoying the role, languishing in the sensualities, going toward the wave, towards her, away from shore, right to the sand, feeling the wave come down like a collapsing building and roll past.

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