On Wednesday, September 30th, I'm going to premiere the new version of my show HOMO!sapienism: Learning to Mind Our LGBTQs -- coming out, living out and loving life! It's basically my coming out story told through poetry -- from before I even knew I was hiding anything from myself all the way to having relationships with women that really pissed me off. :-) I've been rehearsing the show for the past four weeks with Cedric Hill, my director and producer, who has been challenging me to stretch my performances to be better and better (one of his techniques is to toss a football back and forth with me in the theatre while I'm running through a piece. TIRING but good -- it shows me how strong my focus is when I have to do a secondary activity while performing the piece).
Premiering a new show is also stressful. Will the audience like it? Will they get the material? Does the material work? Some of this material is veteran stuff, but it's never been put in the framework I'm putting it in with HOMO!. I know some of the pieces work when they stand alone, but how do they work butted up against other pieces, and new pieces? Suffice to say that at this stage of the process, my guess as to the success of the show is as good as anyone's. In other words: I'm clueless.
A lot of people ask me, "How do you memorize all those lines?" Well, first off, Cedric would say, "Who said she memorized any lines?" since I have been known to stray far off script during performances. MY answer is that I do a lot of repetition. I do the pieces over and over and over until they just start to fall in line, kind of like singing a song from the radio so many times, you just learn it - almost by accident. I've found that if I do this repetition and some part of a piece isn't sticking in my head, it's because the part is written wrong or needs to be cut. It doesn't make sense, so that's the reason I can't remember it. Of course, I'm quite fortunate to have the ability to cut text when I want. Most performers can't do that because it's not their text. Another great reason to write and perform my own work!
I also find that I memorize lines really well while I'm driving. Particularly if I've gotten the words about 50% down. For example, I know the words, but I have no flow to them and I'm stopping and starting as I'm saying them. If I practice them while driving, I find that this gets me another 25% of the way to being fluid with the lines. Doing lines while laying in bed is also very productive for me. I've rehearsed whole shows in bed, visualizing the blocking and running through the lines -- because sometimes, being up in front of people at full tilt is just not how the words are going to sink in.
But these's so much more to doing a show than memorizing, of course. Besides the design elements (costume, lighting, sound, make up) there's the acting: shaping the words, finding the behavior, filling the moments, finding the pacing, learning when to pause and when to plow through. All of this becomes more and more natural and smooth and fun, the more familiar I become with the show. So, Wednesday is going to be fun, but not as fun as the fifth time I do the show or the 12th...etc...etc...
Look out for my post on Thursday for a follow up on how the show goes on Wednesday.