I’m doing it again. This “auditioning” thing.
It makes me nervous, giddy, excited, daunted, and happy, underneath all the neurosis. Seems I’m the perfect image of an actor, then, eh?!
But really. I was thinking about it when I was in To Kill A Mockingbird recently, about tweaking the title of Lance Armstrong’s memoir, “It’s not about the bike”: It’s not about the applause.
At the end of the show, the performance, onstage, when I come out for my bow, I don’t really hear it. Adrenaline in my ears, it’s part of a wall of sound crossed with Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: Wah Wah Wah. It’s the briefest moment. Shorter than an orgasm. It can’t be why you do it.
It’s not about the applause.
Because in the moment that the audience is able to reflect on what they’ve seen and pass judgement positive or negative, they’re already out of the moment — and that’s not what this acting thing is about for me.
Not that I have much experience! But from that which I do, I realize that it’s more about what’s happening in the moment of performance with the audience, the experience created with them in real time. Whether that’s engagement, boredom, emotional stirring.
For me, those moments of connection are what it’s about. To create a space and an environment for others to have an emotional experience they otherwise might not have had that evening.
For me, it’s always been about that. From poems written years ago that highlight my desire to incite a revolution or evolution in people through performance.
You can hear it from the stage. Whether the audience is holding their breath, gasping at a sudden revelation. Or crying, you can hear the sniffling. Or laughing, or that one person in the audience who laughs harder than others, or is trying not to laugh because no one else is.
It’s this petrie dish of human experience. How will they respond, react, be moved, if at all?
I love it. I love being a part of it. I love having a small hand in moving people, of allowing them the moments of anonymity in the dark theater to be moved. That intimacy, even though I will never see their faces. That authenticity they get to experience, even though they paid for it.
Isn’t that what Aristotle spoke of when he said theater was a catalyst of mass catharsis?
So in those few moments when I’m timing when to step out and down to the apron of the stage, and for a moment be Molly instead of character, it’s like stepping out as the man behind the curtain in Oz. Like seeing how a magic trick works.
It’s lovely and I won’t fein that it isn’t bolstering to get applause, but I rush that part in my head, braced against it somehow, not really hearing it, just trying to bow and let the next person have theirs.
Sure, it’s gratifying as we, the whole cast, stand there hands clasped over our heads, knowing that this sound is a show of appreciation and gratitude and approval.
And I won’t say I don’t like it or hope for it. But.
It’s not about the applause.