Annoying Necessities

4 Feb

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Marketing has begun in earnest on “Miracle,” and I’m faced with the immediate knee-jerk reaction to go on defense against what can only be stated as, “good common sense, solid name recognition, and branding hype.”  In short, it is very annoying, very necessary, and very practical.  And I hate it.

…Which can come off as incredibly snotty and apparently self-serving, given my role.  This was not my intent when this morning’s happy post of the theatre marquee change hit FB.  It should have frankly excited the hell out of me!  We are 15 days from opening, with a killer cast who is constantly fighting for and making smart and informed choices, a crew who is totally supportive and accommodating, down to wiping smashed eggs and water off of every theatre surface we touch, and a director who isn’t interested in self-pity or being pretty, but wants it real, and hard, and inevitably dirty. 

The basis of this rehearsal period has been like boot camp, with the outrageous demands on body and psyche hammered every rehearsal, every day.  I’m not what I’d call “in shape” by any means of gym-regime definition, but I can lift a damn 80 pound kid in a one-arm curl as she squirms, while walking down stairs, grab a 20 pound chair with the other hand, slam it down, and her on top of it, then commence with a struggle ending three times on a cement floor, in a corset, as only about 50 seconds of a 9 minute battle scene.  My body, such as it is, imperfect as it is, has grown to embrace and muscle through things I could never imagine previously…nor frankly even at the beginning of the night before it is done. 

…This is a beat-show…where every moment, I have to focus absolutely everything I have on “right now, this moment.”  There is no room for the arch that reaches beginning to end, that arch will take care of itself thanks to the book work and previous rehearsals we’ve had.  I can’t think about the “allness” of it…I need to focus on this kid, this moment, this task…which given the circumstances of theatre and an untrained fairly savant Helen, requires me to be on my toes for any new accommodation that might be necessary.

(Keep in mind, this is only “playing” this person in her struggle against unheard of odds, for two hours. Not actually living it, day-to-day, as she did.)

…And I fucking love it. 

It is mind-numbingly difficult, and requires all I have, to do it.

…Which makes me think of this interview with Imelda Staunton I was listening to, yesterday. 

…By the time she hits 7:53, I had a total “YES! YES! YES!” moment of confirmation.  I am not the only freak who enjoys the struggle and ass-kicking more than the rest of it.  But where we veered in attack, was my absolute fight for the biography.  And that biography, I’ve been swimming in from all different  corners of the internet and book pages, for months now.  Months of confirmations and months of proofing, and months of reading over and over and over again how easily Anne Sullivan was dismissed as a mere coda in the events of Helen Keller’s education and life.  As if she was not only NOT directly responsible for it, but that she was apparently unable even to exist without hanging onto her apron strings later in life. 

…As if her efforts and achievements completely ended at the water pump that day, instead of merely transitioning into a “part three” of a long life, already full of adversity and achievement unto itself.

…Which makes seeing the marquee, seem like another slap in the face, or brushing aside…belittling at least half of the story which gave us the reason we– any of us– even know who Helen Keller is today.

…The fact that for smart purposes, it reads: “The Incredible story of Helen Keller” above the title, shouldn’t bother me, in theory.  But it does.  And it seems that even though Gibson specifically wrote this piece as a sort of love letter to Annie herself, and even in the title, refers to her…what we know about this show in the collective consciousness is exactly what the marquee claims.  The fact that even a show about Annie’s history and work, gives Helen top billing, because that is how her work has been regarded historically, sucks.  And I’m not saying this from the Actor’s perspective of not getting “my” character’s name up in lights. I’m saying it for the simple fact that Annie herself deserves it to be there.  Of its own accord. In her own biography. And stand just as strong in recognition without Helen’s beside it.

…What bothers me is that no matter how many books are written, or times this show is ever produced, THIS is going to be the marketing necessitated…because without Helen, who-the-hell is this “Annie Sullivan” person?

…To which I say, “Without Annie Sullivan, who the hell is Helen Keller?”

~D

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