I think everyone in our cast was expecting our director to make some changes from last year. We certainly didn't expect to run Act I right off the bat in our first rehearsal after ten months being away from the barricade. It was a test of muscle memory at its finest. Apart from a handful of new cast members, the performance was more or less the same as last year as far as our director's artistic vision went. But the show was tighter. After 28 shows last summer, we no longer needed to worry about remembering our lines and blocking, so we could dive into the hearts of our characters.
This summer, I journaled before every performance––about the show, any pre-show anxieties I needed to flush out, dressing room observations. I also became obsessed with Yogi Throat Care. The inspirational messages on the tags were like fortune cookies. Finding out, "What will Yogi say today?" soon became a favorite part of my day. Sometimes the messages were apropos to Les Mis. Other times they were good pre-show soothers––reminders to live in the moment, be kind to myself, and breathe. I started saving the tags and taping them in my journal.
Below, I posted some highlights from the 28 shows. I picked them for their variety. As I was flipping through my notebook, I travelled back to every day of the summer: how work was that day, what I had for dinner, what backstage drama was going on. Some nights I was in a better place than others. There were times I had difficulty motivating myself to go the theatre––I was tired; I ate too much; I wasn't invited to go the beach. I hated those nights, because it made me question whether I am going into the right field of study. But then I would have the great nights, and I would remember there is nothing else that fulfills me more. I tried not to edit the journals too much to keep the heart of the moment, which is why they sometimes jump around a lot. Sometimes they're meditative rambles to myself, sometimes they're a list of observations, and other times they're more reflective. I also switch between using character names and real names, but the essence of the journals doesn't depend on knowing who these people are. Taking the time to journal helped me take stock of where I was before every show, address any obstacles that would taint my performance, and settle into my theatre zone.
Opening Night: 7/23
Opening night #2 of Les Mis at the Academy, my third opening night of Les Mis ever. Katie (the stage manager) just called ten minutes until places, which means I still have thirty minutes before I go onstage. The factory girls lace up their corsets. Marius kids around with Eponine. In about two hours she’ll die for him on the barricade. As the minutes tick by, I slowly travel to France. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your places call for the start of Act I. Break a leg,” Katie says. It’s time to push this snowball down the hill and let it roll.
Night #2: 7/24
I don’t know how Enjolras waits so long to go onstage. I’m costumed. I drank my tea. I had my cinnamon Altoid. I peed. I just want to go to France. It reminds me of the feeling before a race, except I don’t want to go onstage to get it over with. I want to go onstage because I want to be in it.
Night #5: 7/27
“It’s strange,” I told Mom. "Normally I would be getting ready to settle in for the night, but the most energizing part of my day hasn't even begun.” While Mom curled up on the couch in her yoga pants and glasses, my face was caked with makeup. I drank tea not to settle in for the night, but to coat my throat before I performed. This is my life six nights a week for the next month. I’m so lucky.
“Do you ever get tired of performing the same thing?” Mom asked. I would be lying if I said there are never nights I would love to stay home. There are days–many days–when I’m tired from work, my shoulders sore from yesterday’s swim, my eyes still stinging from the makeup I wiped off half-heartedly at 11:30 the night before. But it’s like exercise. Of course there are days I don’t want to do it. But I have to get out there. I have to keep myself conditioned.
“It’s like a sport,” my high school director says. “If you don’t do it for a season, you set yourself back.” Theatre is part of my rhythm. If I go too long without it, I get antsy. So even on the nights I may not be thrilled to go to the theatre, I go––because I have to, but also because I know I’m going to feel great after it’s over. I’ll feel that natural high.
It’s different performing a show 28 times. It’s not the same adrenaline I get from my high school performances. It feels more rhythmic. It feels more natural. Because it’s a natural part of my rhythm. I can’t live without it.
Night #7: 7/29
|"I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am blissful."|
Thank you. Thank you Throat Care. I should wear this tea bag on a chain around my neck. Breathe the mantra during my sun salutations. Stroke it in the water. Pedal it up the the hill. Pound it on the pavement.
Tonight I had grilled tuna, $25/lb. In about fifteen minutes I’m going to go begging on the streets. It’s not exactly method-acting, but if I were to have a last meal, grilled tuna would be a fantastic one to end with.
Night #8: 7/30
|"Love is where compassion prevails and kindness rules."|
Very apropos for Les Mis. "To love another person is to see the face of God."
|"Let your manners speak for you."|
Maybe “Let your mannerisms speak for you.” I know I sometimes give off the "stay away from me" energy. I don’t mean to, usually. And then people go away and I want them to come back, but they’ve already formed their cliques. I’m starting to miss my home friends.Night #19: 8/12
|"May this day bring you peace, tranquility and harmony."|
Lots of rain tonight. Sweatpants and a baggy rain jacket. I wish I had the tighter-fitting TriFury jacket.That’s okay. I’ll just accept the bum.