I’m posting this tonight by special request from one of the key players in the whole drama I’ve been describing. hahahaha My dearest friend Brett: get ready for more fawning love from your wee 16 year old new friend!!
Next installment in the Picnic adventure!
Part 1. The audition
Part 2: The callbacks, getting into the play
Part 3: First meeting with the director
Part 4. The calm before the storm … the time before rehearsals started … memorizing lines, etc.
Part 5. Rehearsals start
So now. Rehearsals move on. It will soon become apparent where all of this is going. Brett was one of the first “older” men in my life to take an interest in me. I don’t mean sexually or romantically – I just mean as in: “God, you are COOL.” I’ve had a couple of those in my life – older men who have recognized something in me, and maybe they’ve done a bit more work on themselves than men of my own age – and they’re able to just support me, and lift me up, and have pushed me to another level in either my understanding of myself, or in my ability to just say to myself: “You know what? I’m okay.” Brett’s friendliness to me was HUGE to me at this point in my life. Not that i was a leper in high school … or anything like that. I just had no confidence. I was crippled by shyness and fear of making a mistake. And Brett, with his open-faced friendliness and acceptance of me – just made a HUGE difference in my life. The repercussions were long-lasting. And not to treat my high-school journals like literature in any serious way: but I can certainly discern the difference in my writing. There’s a new tone of confidence, toughness, self-reliance.
So! Next installment!! As always, I will include stuff in my life going on outside of the Picnic experience.
This one’s a long sucker. Only true Diary Friday fans need go further.
I’m sorry I have to catch up. My diary should be dateless cause lately I’m just picking it up occasionally to update it. Which I don’t want to do cause so many exciting things are going on. I don’t have another rehearsal until Sunday night. I’m disappointed. I look forward to them SO MUCH.
Last night Joanna, Liz and I were the only ones rehearsing – that is the hardest rehearsal I’ve ever been to. Well, I wanted feedback. And I’m getting it. But I love it. I’ve got so much to learn, it’s monumental. But – learning is growing. I want to grow. I’m loving it.
I feel welcome. I like them all. Like, I come in — I guess I expect people to just acknowledge that I’m there but — I mean, I went in there not knowing a soul and already – I feel so at ease.
Brett. How can I explain? He just pays attention to me. I love them all. I don’t even feel shy going up and starting to talk. They like me. [Sally Field?]
Brett and Eric together — they obviously think the other one is the most hysterical thing on the planet. They love just sitting around making jokes, laughing at each other. They tell me all these funny stories about plays they’d been in together. Especially Hooters – Everyone is still talking about that play – laughing about rehearsals, private jokes – I wish I had seen it. Brett, Eric and Liz were in it.
Tuesday we were just starting rehearsal. Everyone was running around getting ready and setting up chairs. Brett was lining up chairs and he grinned at me. “Want to sit by me, buddy?” I smiled and he said, “Come on, sit by me, buddy!” I went over to him and he said, “You’re my only pal.” [hahahaha We always made fun of his character - the poor lovelorn rejected Alan, whose only real friend was the prickly 16 year old sister of his girlfriend. Oh, and that "prickly 16 year old" was obviously played by me. Alan literally became a creature we all collectively MOCKED throughout the rehearsal. hahaha Poor Alan.] Brett grinned and said, “I think there should be an Act IV in which Millie and Alan have lots of great sex.” Then he saw my face and said, “Well — maybe not.”
Kate had a laughing fit when I told her that.
I’m sure Brett sounds like a real pervert [bwahahahaha I was so young!] but everyone talks about sex. Not constantly but what seems like unchartered scary territory to me isn’t as alien to them. After that, I just sat in my chair, and Brett bounded down into the house to get his script. Then he came back up on the stage and as he sat down, he put his arm around my shoulder and just squeezed me so tightly I thought my shoulder bone might snap.
I don’t know why he did that.
I think everything’s less inflated in college. [Very astute observation, young woman.] I mean, if some guy casually did that to me at school I’d lose sleep about it! But that one hug – it was just SO NEAT. It was just nice, and buddy-buddy – a friendly squeeze. It took me by surprise. We both were just smiling at each other – then he let me go and we both opened our scripts to study our lines.
I like Eric too. He’s so NICE.
They all are. I love feeling wanted, I guess. I like meeting new people and having them like me. Especially if they’re as cute as Eric. But it goes for everyone.
Last night’s rehearsal – Wow – so intense – But it was wonderful. [Funny: I hadn't remembered this reherasal until just now when I re-read it - and it all came back. I remember the very line I had all the problem with!!] Joanna and I had to do our scene so many times. At first just monotone [part of the Meisner technique - which is how Kimber worked], and then we tried it without monotone. The minute I got out of monotone, things got different. I mean, I’ve never thought of acting as REacting – when really REacting is all that acting is. That’s hard to get used to. For my whole life I’ve just been memorizing my lines and memorizing the interpretation I was going to do. It was set how I was going to say my lines. I asked Kimber on Tuesday night, “When I get mad at Bomber – I don’t know mad I should get.” And Kimber said, “As mad as he makes you.” So that keeps happening to me. Kimber says he’s seen plays where the two characters are seemingly in two different worlds, coming from two different places. Millie isn’t just a character. She is me. I am her. Oops – at rehearsal – we have to refer to our characters as me. If we don’t Kimber says, “So you’re giving the role to someone else?” So I’m starting to fantasize as Millie, imagining me in her life, seeing myself in school, in places outside the round of the play. Like I tell stories about going swimming and going out for Cokes. Kimber kept stopping me: “Don’t let it sound like a grocery list.” It has to seem real and like it really happened. So I do fantasies about the swimming hole, and going out for Cokes, so that when I say the line – it feels like it really happened.
We have to do moment to moment and repeat exercises. [This is the entire basis of the Meisner method, although I didn't know that at the time.] What that is is – Okay – here’s one sequence from the script:
Madge: Beggars can’t be choosers.
Millie. You shut up.
The repeat thing is: she says her line – I repeat it – then she says it again – then I go on to my line. Diary – it was incredible. You get to the heart of what the line means – how you’re supposed to say it. With that little bit of repetition – it goes:
Madge: Beggars can’t be choosers.
Millie: Beggars can’t be choosers?
Madge: Beggars can’t be choosers.
Millie. You shut up.
Madge. You shut up.
Millie: You shut up.
Right there – it became so spontaneous. So right. She said, “You shut up” and I snapped right back – “You shut up!” So she said, “SHUT UP!” and I finally yelled, “YOU SHUT UP.”
I can’t explain what it felt like but I suddenly knew that it was real – I hadn’t had to work at it – and I just could feel in my heart that that was how the line should be said. It became so vital, so much more real with the repeating.
It’s almost unreal that I’m sitting up on that huge stage with overhead spotlights glaring down on me and shadowy wings stretching above me and the huge velvet curtain — and the house — and being in a theatre — a real theatre — to ACT, not to watch.
But sometimes Kimber says ‘act’ in a way that makes me feel like it’s something I don’t want to do. The very first thing he said to all of us on the first rehearsal was: “Don’t try to prove that I was right in casting you. Do that on opening night. I want you to read though the play aloud now, but don’t act.”
Last night the first time we tried the scene non-monotone, he said, “The problem is that when you drop the monotone, sometimes you lose all the underlying things that are so right and you begin TO ACT.” (He did little quotation marks with his fingers around To ACT) I could never explain it but I understand what he means. Acting is becoming more real to me. Millie must become me – how else could I play her? I just lie in bed imagining her life – picturing me with my face – being Millie. I let myself go through things. It’s weird how I can do that: put myself in Independence, Kansas and be Millie.
And Joanna – I love her. I love playing her sister. We work well, I think. She’s so so nice. Once again, everyone is! Last night she offered me a ride home – so after rehearsal me, Michelle and Joan (our two wonderful stage managers) sat up on the stage just talking. Kimber had left. We just talked. They’re so nice. Michelle said to Joanna and I after Kimber left, “I just want you to know that I think you two are really doing a wonderful job. During those fight scenes, I’m waiting for you to jump up and start pulling Madge’s hair – I mean, Kimber does recognize the effort.” It meant so much to hear someone say that. Cause it was a rough rehearsal. I mean, he doesn’t get mad – but I got so frustrated with myself because I COULD NOT SAY some of my lines in a real way.
I had to say, “In Tulsa I could catch another train” at least 20 times. Those words lost any meaning they might have. I knew exactly what Kimber was saying, but my voice wouldn’t do it. He said to Joanna and I that we were coming out of the monotone at the right pace, and that we were coming out of it the right way.
My whole outlook is different now.
Acting feels different. It feels so much more real.
Oh Diary. Last night.
Yesterday. This whole week. I have to be in so many different places.
I am in 3 plays right now. Picnic, Hans Christian and Antigone (Drama Class plays). I didn’t want to be in Antigone. I asked Mrs. M if I could be the stage manager. Granted, my part has only one line but even the smallest things now are bowling me over. I have so much homework, and I have to work. [I worked at the local library] Meetings for the retreat start on Saturday. [This religious retreat I was on staff for.] The meeting is from 10 to 1, I have to then work from 2 to 5 – and everything. When will I do my homework? I am doing so much that I have lost myself.
Last night was -
work was horrendous and hectic. I wanted to scream all day. Work was the limit. Then last night I had to do my journal entry for French, I had a huge Physiology test today – oh God, and these plays – Mrs. M is the root of it all. She is being such a bitch this year. And for me it’s just since I got into Picnic. I play Eurydice in Antigone (one line). This play is going on the Sunday after Picnic closes. I’m gonna be so out of it and also – she’s gonna want to have rehearsals that week, and I just can’t do it. I will have Picnic shows every night that week … You know what she said to me? “This has to be your first priority.” First of all, I don’t think she has the right to tell me where my priorities lie. She said to me, “This is what you’re being graded in.” I don’t give a shit what grade I get in Drama. You got that, bitch? If I got an F, I’d still be a fucking actress.
I was crying so so hard last night. My mother talked to me for a long time. I guess I didn’t realize how exhausted I was. All my defenses are DOWN. I’m getting an awful terrible cold. I’m doing so much. I’ve been feeling harassed, hectic, frustrated, angry. Today I went around wearing my dark glasses so no one could see my eyes. I got like a 400 on my practice Math SAT. That was the final thing. And now Drama has become my most dreaded class.
I’ve been praying so much lately. I need help from God and Jesus.
My mom said that she’s gonna call Mrs. M – she said, “You always deal with everything all alone, Sheila. You never ask for help, and now I think you need some help.” [I'm crying. Thanks, Mum!]
God will lighten the load – He will carry me if I let him. If I don’t go crazy and not LET him help me. It’s too late, and I’m going crazy. I feel like I’m going crazy.
I have never before in my life been this crazy. I have never been doing this much in my whole life. And it is all occurring during October and November. Picnic, Hans Christian, SATs, retreat, Antigone – Everything.
Oh I need help. God, I am asking you for help.
Much has happened since yesterday.
Yesterday was Sadie Hawkins Day. [Oh for God's sake.] I dressed up and everything but I wasn’t going to the dance. We were all gonna go out for dinner. Practically everyone dressed up. It was fun. But it didn’t matter that I dressed up. I was still worn down and exhausted from crying so much the day before. I could NOT take that Physiology test. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was still too close to crying all the time.
I want to scream at everyone [now in huge letters:]
Leave me the hell alone
7th period assembly. That was what perked me up. Our school is so cute. I mean, everybody really got into it. Every year all four classes compete in the same things:
Decorate a pumpkin as a teacher
Student with best costume
Pie eating contest
I can’t believe how into it I got. I mean, once I get out of school I may feel so stupid about screaming over winning a 3-legged race – but it was all just wonderful and special because – we’re so together now. We are a class. And it is our last year here and we WON EVERY EVENT. We all felt so classy – so together – and we finally won the pie-eating contest. We had never won it. I feel so above the institution of high school and yet I found myself standing on the bleechers jumping, screaming, waving my arms. And we kept winning! And not through cheating or mistakes from the other teams – we won because we have bonded together now. We didn’t use to. Until SK Pades we were a blundering group of clicques. [SK Pades was a show that every junior class puts on - a team-building thing gearing up for senior year - it obviously worked.] Now we stand together – physically, mentally – we’re a group of good kids. We all were going bonkers – all of the guys were hugging each other and carrying each other around.
So at some point – as I was just getting excited for the assembly – I started to get psyched to go to the dance. I can’t remember when Betsy suggested it to me – but out of the blue she said, “Just call TS up and ask him if he’s free and if he’d like to go.” [TS was a guy I was dating. He wasn't in high school anymore - he was 19.]
So that put me in a whole new perspective. Something I hadn’t even thought of. Asking TS. So for the rest of the day I went around all — well — how I get about these things. I felt sick, worried. I kept asking Anne, “But to ask the day of the dance — ” and Anne said, “It’s better that way. More spontaneous, no fuss. It’s very you.”
So I decided to do it [Okay, girl, that's the third paragraph starting with the word "So". Just want to point that out.] I felt sick anyway. That’s all I have to say about that. [hahahaha]
I had to work until 5:00. I told Pam [one of my bosses - a wonderful woman, who was just SO COOL to the high school girls who worked there] what I was planning so she told me to padlock myself in the office and call him. I almost couldnt’ believe that I was doing it. [Obviously we weren't really "set" yet, he and I ... we had gone on like 8 dates or something. But I was still all in a tizzy about him.] It was so sudden. I had no time to prepare myself mentally. I was just getting used to the idea of going to the dance itself … [hahaha As though it takes years of mental preparation to go to a Sadie Hawkins dance]
I sat down in the office and quite calmly called him. H answered and she went in the distance yelling for him. Then he came on “Hello?” I said, “Hi, it’s Sheila.” He hailed me. “Hey hey, Sheila!! Wait — listen to this.” And he let me hear some water boiling over the phone. It was very exciting. He asked me how I’d been. I said okay and asked him the same thing. He said, “Oh, all right, I guess. Guess who I saw today!” I said, “Who?” he said, “Your dad! Walking across the campus in his little Irish cap!” I can’t remember what I said, or what he said next – blah blah – but I finally got to say, “Are you doing anything tonight?” And he said sort of choppily, “Well … uh … yes … no … well … yes, I am actually. I’m delivering pizzas for Tonys. What were you planning?” And I said, “Well, you know, there’s that dance at school tonight. I know it’s hshort notice but only today I decided I even wanted to go.” He said, “Yeah, that dance is a fun one. I was Marryin’ Sam, you know.” “Yeah, I remember!” I don’t exactly remember what the lead-in was, but I said, “Well, I kept changing my mind about whether or not I wanted to go and then I kept chickening out about calling you — ” and TS exclaimed, “Chickened out? Sheila. This is me you’re talking to. This is TS.”
Isn’t that wonderful?
Isn’t that wonderful?
This is TS you’re talking to. Don’t be afraid of me. Don’t be awkward with me. This is TS you’re talking to.
God. I love him. Then he said, “Sheila — you should have asked me!”
Well, and that was that. Even though he couldn’t go I was feeling pretty good. It was a nice conversation. Finally I said, “Well, I guess I’ll see you.” And TS said, “You don’t want to talk for a while?” I wish I had been at home! But I had to say, “Well — see — I’m calling you from work.” So he said, “Oh. Well, I guess I better let you go then.”
Oh, but I wanted to talk! My consolation is that he wanted to talk too. There will be other conversations. (Please?)
I still went to the dance. I had a really good time. One of the few dances I’ve ever had any fun at. April and Miyako came – and Erica came! Diary, I’m so glad. [Erika, in our class, was - and is - an incredible person. Brilliant. She was a senior but she had never been to a dance before that night.] The four of us spent about 15 minutes in the bathroom teaching Erica to dance. I am so so so happy that she came. I got this huge hair behind my contact lens so I had to go in the lav to get it out. Erica and Miyako helped me. I was being a bitch, I admit. Not to them – but I was so mad. I couldn’t even open my eye – it was all bloodshot and irritated. I finally fixed it.
The entire senior class was bombed. [hahahaha] They had been on a hayride before. It hurt a little bit that I wasn’t even invited. [So much for that whole "our class is so together" thing]
Betsy, Beth and I went together. [Mere, where were you??] There were hoards of people there, but no one dancing, so the three of us danced together. We all just bopped around – everyone was looking. All of those people sitting on the bleechers who were going out with people didn’t look like they were having any fun at all.
It was a strange dance, though. Dan was there. He has become my shadow. It bugs me. At lunch, we sit at the same table – Diary, even if there were 10 chairs, he would sit in the one right next to me. So close to me. [Even back then I've got the fierce boundaries! ] On Friday, he said three times during lunch, “I’m so depressed. Nobody asked me to the Sadie Hawkins.”
Three times, Diary.
I like him. We do our French homework in study, but I can’t like him. I just can’t. He doesn’t do a thing for me. Anyways, whenever I was at that dance, he’d be nearby. He would watch me dance. And I’m not exactly a calm dancer. [hahaha As a matter of fact, Beth and I used to dance so hard that we would then run over to the side of the gym and press our sweaty red faces up against the cool tiles. Definitely not calm.] Finally I think he got the hint. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I like him. But it exasperates me when boys don’t get the picture. It starts to make me mad, like “JUST GET AWAY FROM ME.”
Every single senior except for us was drunk.
Kate came late from work. One blemish – Eric was there with Hillary. They slow danced to heavy metal. They slow danced to “Rock Lobster”. Poor Kate. He was acting gross and stupid. His senior quote should be: “Duh”.
Betsy threw her back out in the middle of the dance and had to stand up against the wall. She walked like she was in a body cast. We took turns massaging her back.
Two girls were thrown out for being drunk.
Actually, come to think of it, the dance is sounding more and more like a fiasco. I did have a good time though.
Then. [Can you hear the dramatic music??]
It was the very last song. I was just standing with Betsy and Kate and Beth. Suddenly Kate was digging her fingernails into my arm and she dragged me across the gym so roughly that my jacket almost came out. I was going, “Kate, Kate …” And she cried, “TS is here!”
I stopped short and peered around. She pointed into the lobby, squealing, “I knew I saw him! I knew I saw him!”
And then I saw him in the lit-up lobby. The gym was dark. I didn’t even think why he would be there. I was just so happy I was clutching Kate. I watched him go through the gym – Cris F. was with him. I was jumping around, I wasn’t even thinking: “Why is TS here? What is going on?” He went through the gym and into the hall. Being quite the pubescent, I peeked down the hall after him. TS had just disappeared into the faculty room. Now I started thinking: “What??” I stood in the gym by the door, totally lost. Then H. came out the door, looking totally stricken. TS was behind her. Right then we saw each other. I don’t remember my mind doing a thing. I just smiled and said, “Hello, TS.” and he smiled this little tired smile and drawled, “Hi” in a very unenthusiastic way. Then they were gone.
I just stood there dying, thinking, “What have I done? Oh shit!”
Well I found out 2 minutes later from Betsy [who else??] that H was in trouble – no one knows why – and TS had been called down to pick her up. [H was his sister. She was in my class.]
So that explains why TS seemed so upset when he said hi. I wonder what happened to H.
I want to talk to TS to tell him that I didn’t know about his sister when I said hi because I said hello in a very chipper happy way. [Oh Sheila. You break my heart. So so worried about yourself, that you will come off as less than perfect and compassionate at every minute.]
We had our first retreat meeting today.
I am psyched.
Betsy is Rector!! She said, “Being on staff is different. To just look up at everyone and seeing them find God, and being there with them – you have to be responsible.” I felt tears in my eyes. How beautiful and monumental. I would love to have someone find God through me.
Here is the talk I am going to give at the retreat.
Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them are me. Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me, but don’t be fooled. For God’s sake, don’t be fooled. I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my game. That the water’s calm and I’m in command, and that I need no one. But don’t believe me. Please. My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask, my ever-varying and ever-concealing mask. Beneath lies no smugness, no complacence. Beneath dwells the real me in confusion, in fear, in aloneness. But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it. I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being exposed. That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, a nonchalant, sophisticated facade, to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows. But such a glance is precisely my salvation. My only salvation and I know it. But you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to hold out your hand even when that’s the last thing I seem to want or need. Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead. Only you can call me to aliveness. Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings, very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings. With your sensitivity and sympathy, and your power of understanding, you can breathe life into me. I want you to know that. I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be a creator of the person that is me if you choose to. Please choose to. You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble. You alone can remove my mask, you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic and uncertainty, from my lovely prison. So don’t pass me by. It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach me, the blinder I may strike back. It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about people, I am irrational. I fight against the very thing that I cry out for. Love is stronger than strong walls, and in this lies my hope. My only hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands — for a child is very sensitive. Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.
[Holy God. I had forgotten that speech ... until now ... and as I typed it out I started crying. I still need to hear those words. I fight against the very thing I cry out for.]
If I only had my whole schedule worked out, I’d be happy. I want to be able to calm it down.
I feel wonderful wonderful now.
Just came from rehearsal.
My God, I can’t wait. I’ve never had this much fun. I can NOT stand it.
Praise God that He is giving me this chance! The monumental part of the whole thing struck me tonight. Tonight was a blocking rehearsal. There were floor plans of the two houses taped out on stage – just where everything would be – so we went in and out of “doors” – up and down “steps” – so it started to feel like a play.
I love this play. I love my part. I love everybody who’s in it.
So anyways, it was one of those times when I wasn’t onstage, and I was sitting in a chair in the wings, just watching what was going on on stage. The spotlights were shining down and I could see the empty seats in the house – just waiting – and the two people on stage reciting lines – It looked just like one of those backstage movie shots — but I was part of it – I was in this theatre to ACT not to watch. It is incredible that this is happening to me.