my mind is in about a thousand different places right now, none of which include the reading and writing i should be doing for theatre history and theory. whoops.
if you follow me on twitter, i’m sorry.
anyway, if you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that a couple of days ago, i was in a staged reading of a play called “the synaptic gap” by chris qualls. my shakespeare professor approached me last week, asking if i could spare some of sunday afternoon and monday night to do a reading, and i thought it’d be a great opportunity to be involved in an OSU production without having to be married to it 6 days a week. plus, i’d never really done a staged reading. plus, i LOVED the script.
if you’re familiar with “the laramie project” by moises kaufman and the tectonic theatre project, you’ll understand how “the synaptic gap” is put together. most of the text is in monologue form, with the monologues directly transcribed from interviews and journal entries from people who have been affected in some way by mental illnesses, namely bipolar disorder, manic depression, and schizophrenia. scripts like these are really interesting to me because little to none of the text is contrived or speculated; they are all real words that were said by those who know first-hand what it’s like to hear voices, or to hallucinate, or to be suicidal because of these illnesses. you just can’t write this stuff.
the “characters” in the play are real people who had either suffered with these illnesses, or had family members who had. therefore, the acting is not nearly as important as the words themselves. “the synaptic gap” lends itself to the arena of reader’s theatre for this reason.
i was “cast” (if you can call it that) as two characters for the reading; one was a woman from oklahoma who had suffered from episodes of schizophrenia from the age of 7, the other was a woman who had bipolar, brought on by postpartum depression.
the woman from oklahoma whose words i read was actually at the reading. for obvious reasons, this made me incredibly nervous. i did my best to be “kind and sweet…a passionate idealist…well grounded and tirelessly positive…a consummate storyteller”, as the playwright described her, although the stories she told were heartbreaking and dark. one particular episode she described took place in her grandmother’s rose garden. having felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear telling her to look deeply into a rose, she describes that her whole body “traveled inside that [rose] petal”, where she saw all of the cells that made up that rose petal. she described the cells as “breathing and moving and living, really loving themselves”. she then said that this experience with the rose was the “most beautiful experience I’d ever had”, and that although she is thankful that she is now diagnosed and on medication and under control, that she misses these hallucinations. optimistically, she later states that “i still experience life in a very beautiful way, it’s just different.”
right? what optimism. this woman, who had been misdiagnosed numerous times, put on medication that turned her into a “zombie for fifteen years”…she is teaching me that there is hope in seemingly hopeless situations, and that there are beautiful things even in bad situations, i just have to see it through that lens. she got better. she started a blog (schizophrenia-blog.blogspot.com) and she does public speaking to help people. i look up to her in so many ways.
after the reading, she was so sweet. she came up to me and hugged me, had someone take our picture, and thanked me profusely for saying her words. then, i thanked her for saying them. i thanked her for coming and for sharing her story so that it may be told to so many people and could help them. i not only felt fulfilled as an actor, but as a person.
today, i received this email from her:
Hi Carly! I just want to say thank you for your wonderful interpretation of my words. I found it fasinating how you were able to say my words with the right tone and emphasis put where it belonged!!!! Carly, you were just fabulous!!!!! My best friend, Jill, was with me at the play, and she cried. I became overwhelmed a couple of times and teared up too. Especially when you were talking about my experience with the rose. That is a Very special experience to me…..I am so happy you told it the way that you did. I will always remember you Carly. You touched my life and made a significant impact in the way I view actresses! I have never known a real actress before, so now I will always think of you all in a Very positive light. Carly, thank you for a beautifully, wonderful done reading!!!!! The funny thing is, is that when I was probably about your age, I was very petit, like you, and it’s funny, but in the pic I took of us, I look a little bit like you when I was younger! If you would like a copy of the pic, let me know, I will email it to you! Carly, again, thank you!!!!! You are so amazing!!!!!!
needless to say, i am humbled. i don’t feel like i deserve any of this praise. i mean, all i did was read. she LIVED it. she battled this illness for so long, she beat it, and she had the courage to talk about it so that others wouldn’t feel so alone. her words will make a difference in somebody’s life. they will make a difference in the way that someone else views mental illness, and all of the stigmas that are associated with it in our culture. wow. the courage.
sometimes, i feel like a career in theatre will never make a difference in the world. but stories like hers give me hope for the power that it really has. power to touch someone’s life and make them think differently about something. i know it did for me.