"And I do miss her. And I hope that she has left something, some little part of herself, with me. That would be miracle enough. Wouldn't it?"
The last show my grandmother performed in was Agnes of God.
I started rehearsals for Agnes of God yesterday - on what would have been my grandmother's 99th birthday. The title of this post is one of my lines from the play.
Sometimes coincidences are just plain freaky.
For those of you who haven’t experienced the wonder of performing live theatre, the first rehearsal is very much like a first date – all full of hope and the possibility of a successful future, filled with awkward pauses and shy smiles. You meet the other cast members for the first time. Everyone shares little glimpses of who they are. You make snap judgments about everyone, leaning towards the positive because they’re in the same boat with you for the next five weeks. You nervously imagine the rest of your life with him, your children, growing old, who dies first – oh wait - that’s just a first date.
And then you read through the play.
Sometimes it’s the first time you’ve read the play and everyone is hesitant to interpret their characters. Or everyone is making weird choices about where their character's emotional journey will take them, making the read an overly emotional roller coaster. Sometimes it’s a play everyone knows and lots of discussion takes place before, during and after the read, about how this one will be different, better and more awesome than the last. Sometimes the read-thru is painful, people tentative over words, reading their parts without a semblance of life, making no eye contact or attempt to share moments with each other and you start to question why you signed up for this.
This one was different.
This one was a very emotional first read for me, partly because it’s a very well written script and the two other ladies were not holding back, attacking each scene head on, nailing the passion and the anger and pain right away. Goose bumps were felt more than once and I actually found myself in tears as I yelled back.
But mostly it was an emotional first read because of my grandmother. I could hear her saying the Mother Superior lines, her dry tone pulling the comedy out of the darkness. I could see her in her nun’s habit glaring and snapping out her responses, back stiff and intimidating. And I could remember her confusion when the dementia took over and a line disappeared. The panic on her cast mates as they tried to pick up the story and continue. Her disappointment and her realization that this would be her last show.
This play will be a hard one. Not just because of the subject matter – Science vs. Religion. And not because we’re performing in the midst of the bible belt at a very religious college – but because it’s a bitter sweet good-bye to a woman who’s footsteps I have followed.
If you need me over the next few weeks, I’ll be the one with the box of tissues, paper bag to hyperventilate into, mumbling my lines and trying to keep it together. They don't say all actors are crazy for nothing...
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me