Tunapost 1: am I too old for this?


At the beginning of the second week of rehearsing my second go-round with the little comedy that could: Greater Tuna. In 1996, I appeared in the “Arles track” at the Gretna Playhouse in Lancaster County, PA. That summer, I acted in the play with Pearce Bunting, my best friend, and was directed by Ken Marini. The three of us were about to go to Scotland to produce my play Psychodrama at theEdinburgh Festival Fringe with some others, one of whom would later become my wife.Now, at The Walnut Street Theatre in Philly, I am playing the other 10 roles in the “Thurston track”. Already it is clear that a great deal of my performance will be an homage to Pearce, especially his portrayal of Pearl Burras, which I have essentially stolen outright. John Zak is Arles and Madi diStefano is directing, and we make a jolly trio. We are doing “straight sixes” – six continuous hours of rehearsal a day, as opposed to eight with a lunch break. It’s a more efficient use of time and it helps enormously with child care, but boy, am I feeling my age. The play is a high-voltage parade of quick changes, with both actors going from one broad comic role to another. Besides the line-learning required in the short time allotted us by the theatre, I have felt daunted by the energy expended slowly bringing these characters to life. Fighting off the cold Ella brought home from school last week doesn’t help either.

I am also experiencing a curious ennui about acting generally. As usually happens when I begin a project, I am made aware of all the things I can’t do because I am an actor: go to Quaker meeting, attend weekend events with my kids, participate in volunteer activities. More than ever, I am smarting at the strange professional schedule of actors, which eats up the weekends and gives us Mondays off. Mondays off? Sorry, I have to teach, and the do all the things I couldn’t do on thee weekend because I was rehearsing. I am under-prepared for my week of teaching because by the time I get home, I am too spent to do anything but put the kids to bed.

But perhaps it is larger than that. Perhaps I am finally wearying beneath the endless insecurity of my profession. Now, at 45, I find myself fantasizing about managing a Starbucks, owning a franchise, or driving a bus. A regular schedule, with regular income, and no particular emotional attachment to what I do – it sounds dreamy. My domestic situation is in a state of flux, the swirl of which is stimulated by the unpredictability of my professional life.

Perhaps it is mortality. Perhaps the weariness is the weariness of middle age, and the ennui comes from a creeping sense that now is the time for doing what is essential, what calls to me, what leads me. The phrase “I’m too old for this” has meaning for me now. I’m not too old for Greater Tuna– it’s actually great fun and requires comic bravery and precision which thrills and challenges me. But I sense the clock ticking away, and I wonder . . . how much longer do I have to do the things I really want to do? And what are those things?