Putting on stage plays: this is the sort of thing that theatre people do all the time, I guess. God knows how.
There was damned little brain surgery going on in the dressing room, on the stage, before the shows. There was no trace of salad prep or mortgage adjustment. Tiddlywinks and shampooing the dog and peeling an apple and returning a ferocious volleyball serve and moving an ex-wife's furniture out of one's apartment were nowhere to be seen. Not that I necessarily indulge in any of THOSE activities; but that there were specific, almost ritual activites that I reckon are exclusive to the theatre-making process: that's my point.
There were actors going through their before-the-show paces, that's what I remember most vividly. There was Dan Dietz, literally pacing --- counterclockwise --- and running the lines of his lengthy monologues on the darkened stage; there was Leigh Anderson Fisher, singing something that I recall as being plaintive and slightly Appalachian and doing a sort of ambulatory calf-stretching exercise; there was Ellie McBride, disappearing into the dark vom for solitude or maybe because she was leery of catching the rhinovirus that was being passed among us during the first couple of weeks. All of this after we and Heather Hanna and Michael Mergen had crowded into the dressing room, had switched from civvies to costumes, had applied our makeup, had bandied the local-scene small talk. The phrase "actresses cowling at light-ringed mirrors," from the opening to Samuel R. Delany's DHALGREN, flashed into my thoughts at least once each night.
Lowell was a good and gentle director in the rehearsals prior to all this, telling us exactly what he wanted from us, allowing for input if he wasn't sure or we had other ideas, often ending his directions with "Does that make sense to you?" I sometimes imagined him going, "Okay, Brenner, listen: One plus one equals two." He pauses, then adds: "Does that make sense to you?"
It was remarkably social, the entire process. Night after night, day after day, there was always this BEING AROUND OTHER PEOPLE situation to experience for a few hours. That I, a bit of a recluse, didn't feel any more itchy than I did is only a testament to the decency and professionalism of my associates. Also, it comforted me to hang my Naruto keychain from one of the rafters in the dressing room, as if to be watched over by that vessel of the nine-tailed fox demon.
And the last bit of my contribution to this scrapbook ... hell, even before I write the words I can tell it's going to sound all theatre-y --- and I hate that. But, see, most of the times I've been onstage anywhere, I've been in my own nonfiction (mostly) shows and so am merely portraying myself or a Thinly Veiled Version Of Myself. And this Bruce Dougherty role allowed me to actually ACT a little, which was an interesting challenge; and it allowed me to show several people who I admire that I CAN, actually, act. For which opportunities I am indebted to the generous Mr. Bartholomee.
Wayne Alan Brenner