I always enjoy the stroll up the winding path that leads to the Bruns Memorial theatre. I remember one Summer when the sycamore leaves that had fallen on the walk way during the off season and had now been swept away left a delicate reminder of nature's random beauty. Ghost images of the leaves had created a lovely pattern on the path. It looked almost Japanese to me, like the pattern you might find on a silk kimono.
As anyone who has been to Calshakes knows, at the top of the path, past the wonderfully arresting sculptures that add a certain elegance to the grove and in the shadow of our very own Wooden O is a really great cafe.
Recently, I decided to try one of their specials: Braised beef shank and mashed potatos and a little salad. (There's an employee discount.) After I paid, the girl behind the counter gave me my change and cheerfully said "Enjoy the show!"
And that got me to thinking.
My first thought was "I can't. I'm doing the show." I'll be too busy hitting people with shovels and picking up cues to enjoy it. But then I remembered an experience I'd had in an acting workshop with Phillippe Gaulier in London a few years back. We were doing some Buffoon work, improvising characters in an exercise called "Buffoon Circle" and I was (as I remember) flowing quite nicely. The workshop participants were laughing their asses off and I thought I was killing. But after the exercise was over and I was catching my breath, I looked up and Gaulier was staring at me sternly. He said something that I've always remembered.
He said "Very good. You had us all laughing. We all enjoyed that work very much as you could tell while you were doing it. But how much better it would have been if YOU had enjoyed it too!"
I think what Gaulier was getting at is this fundamental quality that we've all seen in performances that trancends watching a well executed portrayal done well. There are those moments when we see the performer enjoying themselves and we humans, as the empathetic creatures that we are, cannot help but be swept up in the swirl of it. To go on our own little Buffoon Circle with the performer(s) by sheer force of the actor's joyful commitment to the material. No wonder you hear so many directors finally boil all their guidance down into two little words: Have Fun.
There is a old Jewish curse that goes like this:
"May all your teeth fall out except one, and may that one tooth have a hell of a toothache!"
A pretty extreme curse wouldn't you say?
But in that tradition there is a curse that trumps it:
"May what you love be also what you do for a living."
My job, -and don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it- is at its most basic, to have fun. To enjoy myself. Even if I was playing a tragic character- and who's to say the rustic gardener Dimas in Triumph of Love isn't in some small way a tragic figure, at least in his own mind?
So if a few folks out there in the amphitheatre get swept up in my little Buffoon Circle, all the better because tonight I'm going to take the advice of that girl who works at the cafe. I'm going to enjoy the show.