From the Stage to Zoom?

“There is real power in real-life experiences, but there is real reach digitally.” - Nick Cave, visual artist

As a stage performer, I am so excited by this very strange phenomenon, which is live streaming. Tonight, people all over the world will be watching my play HICK: A LOVE STORY - based on Eleanor Roosevelt’s letters to Lorena Hickok - at the same moment. That is a new phenomenon.

On the other hand, I will be performing in a vacuum without contact with any of them.

That’s just weird.

And the change in format means my acting has to change radically. I love a challenge… well, not all the time, but in things that I love to do, and this is a big fat one. I think challenges take longer to embrace when you’re 74. Yes, I was one of the quick ones. And I’m still quick — for 74. Just memorizing takes so much more time and, even though I’ve done HICK so much, this version is drastically changed.

Many people perform digitally with their script on the computer, so they don’t have to memorize, which saves them oodles of time. I tried that but decided to do it the old-fashioned way. For one thing, I do a lot of rewriting when I memorize, as I discover what words feel right in my mouth. And #2: I want to keep my memorizing ability strong so that, when I can go back to live theater, I can still do it. Many people my age simply cannot do live theater anymore because of the required memorization.

Now that I’ve somehow burst through into this new world of intimate acting, I feel free to tell you that I was not just displeased with what I saw on the video of that earlier HICK rehearsal — I was horrified. I sat there watching myself do something that didn’t work on video and would not have worked in a theater either. I kinda fell between two stools and was giving a performance that wouldn’t have worked anywhere. But we had a run-through on Monday where I finally got there. I’m starting to kinda-sorta feel my way into this totally different art form.

In my video, I was trying to find a place to channel all the energy that I put into performing HICK in a theater. But this intimate screen acting is not just a different kind of energy, it is also less energy! That’s why, when famous movie stars turn to the stage, they often fail miserably. They always have a juicy fat role because they’re a movie star. But they just haven’t built up their acting muscles through years of live performing. After performing solo for so long, I have quite large acting muscles. Acting muscles are used to project not just vocally but in every way the life of your character to the very furthest seat in the theater. I’m learning to relax and not use them so much.

Has this veteran stage performer made herself “Zoom-able”? I’ll find out tonight.

HICK: A LOVE STORY is available for streaming through March.

Terry Baum is an actress, director, teacher, filmmaker, political activist, and award-winning lesbian playwright. Her blog BAUMBLOG is a “Top 100 LGBTQ Blog.”

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