Bad Girls Upset By Learning Lines

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, because most of my energy is going into this:

After ten years of being in semi-retirement from pretending to be other people, I’ve taken on this project with my friend Ad Frank. He and I have been wanting to do this for ages, and the stars had finally more or less aligned enough for us to get it together, throw it against the wall, and see what sticks.

But, oh, I am so damn terrified.

It’s not that I haven’t performed at all in these past ten years. It’s just that the type of performing I’ve been doing (in bands and with Mortified) is a lot different than what I’m undertaking right now. It’s virtually impossible for me to forget my “lines” when doing a Mortified show — my “lines” are right in front of me, in my diary from 1986. Having been away from being involved in theatre (onstage anyway — in an adminstrative capacity I’m immersed in it on a daily basis), it’s safe to say that I have become quite…rusty.

Learning lines. Dear, sweet, gentle Jesus…how was I able to memorize all this stuff before? In high school, my friend Jon started referring to me as “the walking script,” because I’d not only know all MY lines, I’d know HIS lines, the lead’s lines, everyone else’s lines, AND the stage directions. They’d come spilling out of me like ticker tape, effortlessly. In college, I absorbed scripts for 4-5 plays a year, all the while taking classes, maintaining a decent GPA, and tutoring in the school’s Writing Center. Oh, and binge drinking.

When I moved back to Boston to go to graduate school, I was writing scripts, performing them, learning the scripts from the other writers in my collective, drinking, sleeping with a series of bass players, drinking, working three part-time jobs, drinking…and I never had to call “line.” Never, ever…never.

Now – my God – it’s so much more difficult. I’ve begun having those dreams. You know what I’m talking about, if you’ve done any acting on any kind of level. You completely blank out, there’s no one there to prompt you, and people start leaving in droves. Almost every night I’ve been having this dream, waking just before the audience starts throwing putrescent, fetid produce at me.

It’s been difficult expressing how very terrifying this all is, because so many of my friends know me as a PERFORMER, and the ones who’ve known me for decades — dating back to my “walking script” days — laugh it off. “You’ll be FINE!” “You’re not CAPABLE of forgetting lines….you still remember lines from Thespian Night 1988!” And I smile, tightly, and I thank them, and then I go sit on my bathroom floor and weep. I am certain that I’m forgetting huge chunks of dialogue. I am certain that no one is going to laugh at the funny stuff. I am certain that people will start fidgeting and looking at their watches, the way you do when you’re sitting through an obvious turkey.

How did I do this before? The bicycle analogy is simply not applicable here.

But I need to a grip on myself, here. I have deliberately surrounded myself with a cast of people who love me and whom I love, including Jon. I adore working with Ad; he is one of the most brilliant musicians I know and he makes me laugh every day. Coombsie is also on board. I have this amazing safety net all around me and it’s a safe bet that the audience will be mostly comprised of people I know, and who will not throw rotten food at me (I think). And the show itself is so great, and its creator, Jo Carol Pierce, has become something of a fairy godmother to me. I think in my heart I know it will be fine, but I’m predisposed to worrying. As though worrying and obsessing will work in my favor, somehow.

It’s less than a week until the show. We were supposed to be doing two performances, but rather awful circumstances crashed into those plans and we are left with a single performance. This is something else that has shaken me and left me more than a tiny bit upset, but we’re soldiering on. The show itself is bigger than us, and certainly bigger than any problems we’ve encountered along the way. I want to, as Jo Carol says, “feel happy and truly loved,” and for the most part, I do.

I just wish I wasn’t so nervous, that’s all.

3 thoughts on “Bad Girls Upset By Learning Lines

  1. As an actor I understand how you feel. I think your basil-ganglia will soon kick in and your previously buff habit of line memorizing will flex its muscle once again. I go over my lines constantly throughout the run of a show; listening to them on ipod, writing them out, repeating them in the shower, and before I go to sleep. I heard that memory work before you sleep is especially helpful. I once went up on lyrics in the middle of a song when I was performing in Altar Boyz. Why, you ask? How could I do such a thing? It’s because in the middle of performing, somewhere in my lower levels of consciousness I thought to myself, “boy, wouldn’t it be awful if I forgot the words right now?” And then I proceeded to live out the nightmare, with no one to blame but myself. You’ll do great. Wish I could see it.Break a leg.

  2. I started reading your blog when I was 10 years old. I am 23 now and I still love it! Congratulations on being a performer!

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