A few days before the closing performances of a show I recently did, one of the cast members saw fit to let his cast mates know that he has been listening to their performances, and so took it on himself to make notes for all of us, offering to email each of us the "corrections" to our work, in time for us to incorporate them for our final two performances, "better late than never," as he said. I drafted several emails in response to him, deleting each one, as I swallowed my fury and frustration, since I realized that reacting with heat would be unhelpful. Needless to say, no one else in the cast much appreciated his "help," either; not at the point when we'd finally become comfortable on stage and deserved to enjoy the hard work we'd put into this show, for better or for worse.
My reaction to my colleague interests me most in how it effected me PHYSICALLY. It was like a dart in the side of the neck. A kind of tranquilizer, which I almost felt literally (and I MEAN literally) numb my tongue, vocal aparatus, and breath support system, down to my diaphram. I could feel myself physically recoil at anticipating going back out on stage with someone whom I knew was looking at me not only critically (we all look at each other critically) but as a superior being, looking down on my work, and not engaging with me as my scene partner. I imagined myself on stage looking at myself, my tongue bunched up in an uncooperative, protective knot, my throat tight, my breath high in my chest, in reaction to this guy's poor timing. My body and voice--my instrument--registered the judgement.
My reaction ALSO made me confront the effect I have had on other actors when I have behaved as badly as this particular colleague. Once, during the run of this show, I commented unfavorably to one actor about another actor's performance, it got back to the actor I was talking about, and s/he felt as angry and hurt as I did, at this incident, above. And recently, on this blog, I criticized harshly friends and colleagues in another production across town DURING their run. My comments hurt them and I apologized, but I didn't fully empathize with them until this week. I get it now. Having had a hard little lesson in tact, I hope to find both rhetorical and substantive means to continue honestly discussing local peformance with the goal of helping FREE performers to do their best work, rather than numbing them.