Monday, August 3, 2009

Actor's Diary: A Marathon Reading...And Yogurt

Bryce Pinkham will be playing the roles of Brother Vaughn, Pete Davenport and Felix Barclay in
The Orphans' Home Cycle

Of all things...yogurt. I can’t help but feel at the center of some cosmic joke as I extract my script from my bag, covered in peaches and cream. Meanwhile, a cadre of theater folk are filing into the room and taking their seats. As I desperately mop the edges of my script, I watch the collective administrative and creative strengths of Signature Theater Company and Hartford Stage file into the room, and my heart suddenly shifts into a new gear. I don’t think anyone in our twenty-two-person cast is ready for what is about to happen. We are gathered to read a preliminary version of Horton Foote’s massive Orphans’ Home Cycle, a three-part behemoth that is nearly airborne after months of preparation, auditions and planning. It was the late playwright’s dream to have his epic cycle fully realized and our director, Michael Wilson, assures everyone in the room that “Horton is with us today as we prepare to hear all nine plays read out loud, in succession, for the first time, ever.” Yes, my nerves are also in attendance.

My name is Bryce Pinkham. I am a fledgling actor recently released into the world of professional theater and thrilled to be a part of this historic production. What you are reading is the first installment of an actor diary, the goal of which will be to provide a unique perspective, to report from the inside the everyday happenings of rehearsal and performance from a young actor’s point of view. I submit these entries as nothing more than my observations. However, my goal will be to use this extended rehearsal and performance process as a backdrop to highlight the creative agency of the actor in our American theater.

Though it is only the first day of rehearsal, it is hard not to feel like we are giving a performance. As I watch my fellow actors read, it becomes clear that everyone has already done his or her fair share of homework. Every three acts we stop to feed and mingle and the discussion begins: “People are really bringing it today!” a fellow actor opines. That does it. I decide today is the day they’re going to find out they made a big mistake casting me. Second-guessing and self-doubt sort of come with the territory I am finding, and I suspect I am not the only actor in the room experiencing some version of this imposter complex.

Miraculously though, as we continue to read, the story itself seems to take over and the feelings of awe and humility that come with speaking the words of a master far eclipse any self-indulgent actor worries. The plays clock in a little over nine hours and after our official release the appropriate number or brow raises take place as we all realize that we have some serious work ahead of us. We are tired, but overall, the mood is positive. I think every actor here feels incredibly lucky to be a part of this project, but that does not preclude anyone from expressing his or her concerns. “How in the HELL are we going to do this?” one actor says to me once we exit the building. “I’m not really sure,” I respond, “but it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”


davidpinkham said...

Between you and the Dramaturg I'm hooked. I'll enjoy watching the evolution from the inside. Keep them coming.

Katia said...

I liked to read this and I think it's an excellent idea.
I'll love to see more photos of people reading and doing rehearsal stuff.
All the best, Katia