Friday, September 11, 2009

Like sands in the hour glass

So, this is the part of the gig when I start to get ansty.

After the show has opened and we no longer have rehearsals (so my days are big open spaces) I start to feel a little funny. The problem for me isn't how to fill my days - lord knows that I have plenty of things that interest me, and this time I happen to be in a remarkable city with endless exploration opportunities. No, the problem for me becomes the lack of consistent human contact. When I'm in rehearsals every day, even if I'm not socializing outside of rehearsals, I get plenty of human to human time when I'm working. But when the rehearsals stop and I have days and days with no requirements, and I don't have a huge list of people I know, I start to feel a little crazy. If I go two days without talking face to face with another person (other than perhaps people who work in shops and restaurants) I really start to feel weird. Some people can go weeks and weeks - they could enjoy camping in the wilderness alone for a long period of time - I am not like that. I NEED social contact to feel - I don't know - alive. It's really a problem with this job, and it's something I still haven't gotten used to.

I did go to the second Barber performance tonight to watch from backstage. I learned some important things; like the fact that Rosina and Bartolo sneak onstage for their first entrance by hiding behind a chorus guy carrying a bass drum. I also learned that the original tenor has cancelled at least the next three performances, so the tenor who has filled in for the last two will also do my performances. The funny thing is that I actually rehearsed with the replacement tenor more than the original tenor, so for me, it will be no problem. Also, the new tenor is quite tall, which for me is always a bonus! I also discovered that the backstage people at the Staatsoper are incredibly nice, and I have no doubt they will help me if I ever start to go the wrong way or something. I now know how to get from my dressing room to both sides of the stage, and where and how all the entrances and exits happen. I really think it should all be fine - even fun. As long as I don't forget everything in the next seven days.

I also took a trip this afternoon to what is called the East Side Gallery - it is a long piece of the Berlin wall that instead of being disassembled and removed, has become a long canvas for various artists from around the world. I walked along and looked at all the art, and took in what it meant to have a wall that once divided a city, a country, and the world. I didn't even realize until I went back home that today was September 11th, and that the somber but inspiring field trip was probably appropriate. Eight years ago today, I was in the middle of a City Opera production of The Mikado of all things, and two days after 9/11, we had to continue on with our lives, and perform our final dress rehearsal with invited audience, equivalent to a regular performance. None of us wanted to do it - we thought that the frivolity of this Gilbert and Sullivan operetta had no place in the frightening and changed world we now lived in. Except that people needed art to survive - they needed art to allow them to continue to see the beauty and the value in life. They needed to laugh and cry, and we needed for the entire company - from secretaries to costume makers to singers to the General Manager- to stand on stage before the performance began, and to sing all together the national anthem. Seeing the paintings on the former Berlin Wall today made me feel the same way; that art really does something to increase the vitality and aliveness of the human condition, and even in the worst of times, it can bring people together.


Unknown said...

I know this may sound a little crazy, but I happen to know a couple in Germany, both recent PhD graduates. One is a native German and the other American. I'm sure they would enjoy meeting an honest-to-goodness alumnus of "Prairie Home Companion." You can contact me seank100(at)

Katypracht said...

Nice post, Jenny. I hope the time rushes by so you can get on that wonderful stage and enjoy your work! :)

Thinking of you,

Incipit vita nova Ann said...

There's a piece of the former wall at the Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park--so you have a connection with home that way.
When the wall was in place, the wall itself--even on the west--was off-limits. East German guards could have shot anyone on sight who was touching the wall--on the western side. Nevertheless, I kept thinking that if every westerner who went to Potsdamer Platz chipped out a piece of the wall (as I confess I did), the wall would have come down a lot sooner than it did.
I will also always remember, back when Checkpoint Charlie was the entrance point between east and west, racing back to Checkpoint Charlie from East Berlin just before we had to be out and back into the west for the night--and arriving at the checkpoint only to find the guards dancing around to the Bee Gees, decadent western music! (Does this tell you how long ago it was?!) They were rather non-plussed to have been caught and we were scared we were going to get in trouble for being late, so the irony didn't hit me until later.
Make sure you see a Brecht play while you are there. And sometime watch "Cabaret" with Joel Grey--you will recognize some of your new city.