Home > acting, living > Why I act – reflecting on A Streetcar Named Desire

Why I act – reflecting on A Streetcar Named Desire

Portrait of Marlon Brando, "Streetcar Nam...
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I’ll warn you now – this post involves some navel gazing.

I just came back from seeing Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre‘s strong production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and while I’m up in six and a half hours and really aught to get some sleep, I left the theatre with the play’s two (developed) male characters – Stanley Kowalski and Mitch – pacing about in my head, and with an uneasy feeling rippling through my bones. Stanley and Mitch are two very different people, the passionate, primal animal, and the meek momma’s boy. My reaction to Mitch wasn’t surprising – I found myself relating to him, to the quiet soul who gets his hopes torn by Blanche’s desperate lies. How I connected to Stanley, though, now that made me scratch my head a little – I envied the man.

If you know me in life, you know it’s no stretch to say that I am typically a more reserved sort of man. I can be prone to outbursts of theatricality, but catch me on any given moment, and I’m probably content in a silence with a ponderous look on my face. I am a man who does not swear, who volunteers at church, who hasn’t broken any hearts or had his own crushed much in return. I feel awkward even typing ‘I am a man’; there is a lot of Mitch in me. As for Stanley…

Well, I can only think of one moment in my life when I have been a Stanley Kowalski, and that was the most terrifying half-second I have ever experienced. Ask me in person and I’ll tell you.

Some days, some moments, I do get that urge to throw a dish across a room, to shout the truth to a liar’s face, to grab a woman by the shoulders and just kiss her, dagnammit (without asking five times for permission first). But I can’t do it. I’m trying to think of reasons why I can’t, like that I don’t want to be that kind of man or some other noble reason like that, but honestly? Allowing myself moments like that would scare me beyond what I know. It takes a great, deliberate relaxing of my safeguards just to let myself punch a pillow (on the couple of nights a year when I choose to do so). Don’t get me wrong – I’m no powderkeg fervently shouting ‘Serenity Now’ to myself just to stay sane – I just choose not to get angry when difficult situations arise.

But when I’m onstage, I can explore these other sides of the human condition. My performer’s thrill doesn’t come from a nerve-racked adrenaline of stepping onto a stage in front of hundreds of strange eyes; nowadays, if I’m nervous before a show, it’s because I don’t feel confident with my lines or I’m about to use a prop or setpiece I’ve never rehearsed with before. No, my thrill, my energy, my high, comes from seizing onto a chance to take on those characteristics I don’t let bleed into my own personality, be they the absurd flamboyances of an over-the-top gay Le Beau, the malice of an Iago, or the passionate cry of a Stanley Kowalski.

This is not the only reason why I act, but it’s the one that came to the forefront tonight.

Right, now I’m up in less than six hours, and I have 28 kids to make astronomy crafts with in the morning. Thanks for reading.
Cheers,

Andrew Wade

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