Tunapost 6: transformation again

It had been a long day. I didn’t sleep well last night. Griffen woke me up twice. Once at 1:30 a.m. when he reported an “ear ache”. That took an hour, between the administering of liquid Ibuprofen, settling him, re-settling me. Then, at 6:30, he and Ella were doing something that sounded like dodge ball downstairs. I staggered downstairs and quieted them with extreme prejudice. Maybe I got another hour of sleep after that. So today, I was sullen, tired and grumpy as we went to see the holiday toy trains at the Brandywine River Museum – an annual Christmas pilgrimage for us. Even though I slept for about a half-hour this afternoon, I still arrived for the show tonight feeling like I was dragging a 10 pound bag of sand behind me. Then I was transformed.

Here’s the equation: Ben needs to escape (he had a bad day). Ben finds an escape (Greater Tuna). Ben meets people who delight in him there (the audience). Ben delights in them. Everyone’s delighted. Everyone’s transformed. This equation has happened over and over. It doesn’t need to be a comic play either. Tragic catharsis can occur for the actor too. And sometimes, the worse the day, the bigger the catharsis – or comic release – and the higher the dramatic effect. This is the cycle of the Wounded Actor in microcosm – a cycle I describe in more detail in my book The Actor’s Way. The actor uses the performance as an escape from his life, and creates a bond with the audience to do so.

It helps when you have an audience eager to play, like we did tonight. Especially fine was the elderly lady in the front row. Seated there propped up on her cane, staring at us from behind spectacles, she could have been the personification of my characterization of Pearl Burras. She got so into my manic Rev. Spikes routine, she shouted “Hallelujah!” during a pause in the proceedings. I had to stop and acknowledge the raucous audience response to her by sitting next to her and improvising something along the lines being so glad she could make it to church that day. And if you believe as I do that the Spirit is present all the time and everywhere, that’s exactly where we were – in church . . . being transformed . . . by the Spirit.

Griffen’s “ear ache” turned out to be a build up of wax, by the way, dealt with through the application of ear drops and a warm water flush later in the morning. He was fine, and had a great time looking at the trains, and throwing rocks into the Brandywine Creek.