Performance Date: 06.02.10
American Airlines Theatre
Everyday Rapture was completely up my alley. I wanted to take Sherie Rene Scott home with me in my pocket. A little pocket-sized, funny, utterly charming, sprite-like, adorable, self-deprecating, Broadway semi-star (her words) to pull out at work and put on my desk so she can sing Mister Rogers and Judy Garland songs and keep me company in my cubicle. And then I can gaze upon her tiny sparkling eyes and her bouncy long hair, and make her tell me again about growing up half-Mennonite in Topeka and meeting a magician at the TKTS booth on her first trip to New York City. And she can skip about the tiny stage I will make for her out of post-it notes and my paper clip caddy and her presence will remind me of four-leaf clovers and confetti. It will be our little secret here in this grey office building in Midtown and my days here will pass like easy water flowing in a green-banked brook.
Not that I’m writing my blog at work.
Everyday Rapture is an autobiographical one-woman musical that does indeed feature Mister Rogers, Judy Garland, four leaf clovers, and magic. But it’s also an honest story about paradox, about struggling to move forward in life when your world view contains a vital contradiction that holds you in place – which, if you think about it, is probably something to which you can relate. It’s one of those great, personal pieces of theater that works because the more specific someone gets in describing the truth of his or her life, the easier it is for someone listening to identify.
Many times in the show, as she’s telling her life story, Sherie Rene Scott would have these moments where she looked like she was figuring something out. A hesitation coupled with a puzzled frown. A glance away followed by an intake of breath. Those moments endeared her to me. They made her story accessible to me. Because in that hesitation and frown, in that glance away, I immediately recognized the quiet focus that comes over you when an important realization is just on the edge of your consciousness. And in the intake of breath, I recognized the dawning of that realization. I more than recognized these things. I felt them. I felt them with her. And when that sort of thing happens, then this one woman’s specific, unique story of growing up half-Mennonite in Topeka lives in me for a moment. It becomes my story, and the story of the person sitting next to me, and the story of the person sitting next to him. Specific becomes universal. Entertainment becomes personal.
What’s interesting to me is that while those moments of realization were absolutely magical to me as an audience member, as an actor I also recognized them as technique. In fact, I’m willing to bet that Sherie Rene Scott has those exact same moments of realization, with those exact expressions and movements, every evening, in every performance, at exactly the same points in the show. Which doesn’t mean she’s faking it, by the way. When you’re good – meaning you know exactly what you’re doing and you have strong access to your emotions – you can replicate a physical gesture day in, day out and honest emotion will come to you every (or nearly every) time. Maybe not at 100% intensity, but it will come.
I think what I might be talking about here – both with my reaction to Sherie Rene Scott and with the ability to replicate moments of emotion on stage – is empathy. The physical mechanics of empathy. As in, you see in my face and body a pattern. Your body subconsciously mirrors that pattern and recognizes it as one associated with a certain emotion. You then feel that emotion. So, by looking at me, you can know what I’m feeling. (I don't know if that's exactly how it works but it sounds plausible, yes?) So, in this way, I look at Sherie Rene Scott’s frown, glance, and breath and empathize her feeling of discovery. And Sherie Rene Scott, looking back at some former moment in her life, mirrors the frown, glance, and breath of that moment, and she too experiences that feeling of discovery. She empathizes with some past image of herself.
Is that what acting is? Empathizing with some past or imagined image of yourself? Hm. Well it’s an incomplete picture, to say the least. But it’s a notion I like nonetheless.