Monday, February 23, 2009

The Emotional Toll

The emotional stability of actors was discussed on this blog many, many months ago (if I can recover a link to that juicy conversation, I’ll re-post it). But regardless of innate stability, one thing that must take an incredible emotional toll on actors and all others involved is the closing of a show. I’m going through the withdrawal process right now with the closing of “Children’s Letters to God” last night and it sucks. And that’s after being only very tangentially involved with the whole enterprise – mostly just drove children to rehearsals and saw the show a half-dozen times or so. But seeing such a great group of folks – performers, crew, parents and families – on a regular basis had me spoiled. I never left the theater sad no matter how I was feeling when I got there. That is, until last night, when the realization sunk in that it was really over.

I don’t really know how actors cope with going through this process on a regular basis. I’m sure I’ll see some – if not all – of the people associated with the play again but the specific joy of being even a small part of this one production can’t exactly be recaptured. It seems almost like a love affair ending – and I expect for many people involved there’s at least some period of wondering how exactly you find the emotional fortitude to go on. I mean, if I’m feeling that way in my capacity largely removed from it all, I can’t imagine how people more intensely involved get past it.

I will replay in my memory my favorite moments from this show for weeks to come – Eric hitting the note at the end of “Like Everybody Else” without fail every night; Lillie’s great “turtleneck” line that never failed to make me laugh; Sean’s “Silly Old Hat” that never failed to choke me up; my dear son’s emphatic, desperate “Dear God” at the beginning of “An Only Child” – the line-reading that may most distinctly typify his off-stage attitude; and Makenzie’s clear, strong voice rising above the rest at the show’s climatic reprise of “I Know.”

Thank you to the cast of CLTG and the whole crew at Stage 1 for making the experience such a positive one for my family. It’s clear to me that the most powerful – and personally transformative – aspects of theater magic work their wonders out of the spotlight and after the audience has left.


Frank Creasy said...

This is a great subject and it's not something (in my experience anyway) actors discuss very much. But it can be a tremendous sense of loss, no question.

It gets easier the more you work in theatre. But some productions, some shows, become more like a family while some are more like a workplace. Some times you see romances develop, strong bonds of friendships formed - and yes, sometimes (though rarely) it's like a welcome divorce from certain individuals! ;>)

I guess for me the bottom line is that because theatre is so life affirming, and because you get to work exclusively with people who are PASSIONATE about what they do, that it's hard NOT to feel great loss as a general rule when a show closes. Theatre demonstrates some of the best qualities humanity has to offer. Who in the world would want to disconnect from that?

Anonymous said...

well was an experience like no other...amazing in every way...hope we see you again soon...

jj said...

I've always called it Post Show Blues. Our friend Jose says in high school his gang called it "P squared D" (Post Production Depression).

I think Cole Porter summed it up well with "Every time we say goodbye, I die a little, Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little ..."


My experience has been that cast reunions, though well intentioned, don't sustain the celebration, camaraderie and commiseration that are present immediately after a show closes. I try to relish the feeling that only this intimate group can share right now, no matter how large or small the cast/crew/show family.

And make some emotional toll house cookies to console yourselves.