direction · family · performance · perseverance · theater

Postcards from the Edge (of a Bookshelf)




Two nights ago I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf
since July of last year. I brought it back with me from New Jersey, where I’d
stayed with my brother and attended a good friend’s wedding. My brother was
getting set to move from his (omg LUXURY) apartment (by SF standards) to
Baltimore to live with his long-time girlfriend. (Seriously — a huge one-bedroom for $950. Come ON!, she drooled.)
He was getting rid of nearly everything. And my brother is a
keeper of books.
I didn’t know this about him. We haven’t lived in the same
place since I was … 23 and he was 20, still living in our childhood home. So, for about
ten years I haven’t been able to witness him living on his own, developing his
own habits and patterns, becoming a real self-sufficient adult who buys his own
eggs and toilet paper, and who apparently keeps books.
I am not a keeper of books. I am a library whore. I love
them, escaped to the one in our neighborhood growing up, and mostly, I like to
live light. But, as I’ve settled into my own adult-ness, and one place-ness,
and probably not moving anytime soon-ness, I’ve begun to slowly add to these shelves.
And when Ben was about to throw out (or dear god, I hope
donate!) almost all his books, I scoured his shelves for anything that wouldn’t
weigh down my carry-on bag too much. I took a few “classic” novels,
returned my copy of Catch-22 to myself,
a few books on physics, and two on acting.
One is by Mamet, and is a little too mean for me (not as in
base, but as in incompassionate and didactic). The other is called Auditioning by Joanna Merlin.
My brother had the great experience and success of doing the
plays in high school and in college, and I even flew back once for his star
performance in undergrad (the play of which I cannot recall), to attempt to
make up for the years when I’d been absent from his life. He was a fun actor,
an able one, and I still hope/wish that he takes it up again one day.
Confidentially, (if this place can be called that), acting
was one place for him that his stutter completely disappears, and he is the
confident man I know him to be.
The Auditioning book
hadn’t a crease in its spine. Brand new. And Ben gladly passed it on to me.
I began reading it again because in class at Berkeley Rep on
Monday, I opened the notebook I’d brought, which I use for theater stuff, apparently.
In the notebook were some handwritten notes and quotes from Merlin’s book. I
must have written them down when I was reading the book last summer, and then
promptly put it back on the shelf.
The quotes were revelations, the extending of a hand down
into the dark world of trying and hoping and trying some more in the
course-less world of theater. I took the book back off the shelf the other
night, and haven’t been able to put it down since.
There’s practical information about what happens at an audition,
compassionate anecdotes about sitting in the waiting room for one, and tips and
exercises for how to explore a scene or monologue. It’s a great book. I’m
devouring it. And I know I’m at a place where it’s relevant now, where it
wasn’t when I began it a year ago.
I have a frame of reference now; I have a better
understanding of the challenges I’m putting in front of myself, and the ones
that are inherent to the process.
If my best friend hadn’t gotten married, if I hadn’t had the funds to go, if I hadn’t stayed
with my brother, if he hadn’t been discharging all his books, if I hadn’t taken
this class at Berkeley Rep, if I hadn’t picked up this very notebook, I
wouldn’t have gotten this gift.
This tome is a welcome hug and nudge on a path I’ve never
walked before – but someone else has. 

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