Friday, April 10, 2009

Emotionally Exhausting

When I act, I like to refer to the character I'm playing as a separate person, and call the character by name, rather than saying "I" when referring to the character. I know it sounds silly, but bear with me.

I love the movie The Apartment -- a darkly sweet, slightly maudlin romantic comedy released in 1960. I jumped at the chance to work with a film student to recreate a scene from this movie. I'm playing the part of Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator at a giant insurance company who fell in love with the wrong guy -- a married executive who swears he'll leave his wife for Fran. In this scene we're recreating, Fran just got an emotional sucker-punch from the executive's secretary who informed Fran that she's one in a long line of mistresses, and that the executive will not leave his wife as promised. Fran has to hide her breaking heart from a nice guy/pushover in the office named Bud who tries to ask Fran out. His timing couldn't be worse.

So I have to act like Fran, who is trying so hard to keep her cool, fighting back tears and revulsion, trying to be polite to Bud, but also wanting desperately to get away from him so she can go tend to her wounded heart and shattered self-esteem. Acting out this four-minute scene is emotionally exhausting, especially when done repeatedly over a two-hour rehearsal. Imagine your slightly out of shape psyche running a 10K.

Fran is not me. I am not Fran. But sweet, fragile, wants to be tough, wants to be independent, wants to make smart choices, but fails miserably, Fran tires me out.

As rewarding as this experience is, I'll be glad when it's over.