Stuff I’ve Learned by Kraig Swartz

Well, gosh, what a whirlwind!

37 characters, 3 weeks of rehearsal, and 1 actor. Me. So far, this has been an exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting process. But one that’s been intensely rewarding.

I have learned a huge amount during the past four weeks at Gulfshore Playhouse. In addition to learning German (well, not the whole language, but several dozen sentences), I’ve learned to carry on an argument, on stage, while playing both roles. I’ve learned that economy of movement is the most effective means of differentiating characters, while shifting between people. Rather than madly hopping from side to side, a slight shift in weight and focus, voice and posture, energy and speed, THESE small changes can completely create two (or more) distinct individuals on stage.

I didn’t figure these things out on my own. I had the help, guidance, imagination and talent of my amazing director Kristen Coury. In addition to solving all the stagecraft and acting issues, both tiny and mammoth, she made sure that the atmosphere in rehearsals was safe, humor-filled and open to all ideas, both inspired and ridiculous. She also kept the place gluten-free 😉

Kristen also taught me (or maybe helped remind me) to be patient with myself. I think many people are impatient by nature; they want it, whatever “it” may be, now. RIGHT NOW. And they get crazed when they don’t get it. I am afraid that describes me, to some extent. Now this attitude is a very dangerous thing for an actor. Acting, and more specifically, rehearsing, is a process that goes at its own pace. It can’t be rushed. It’s kind of like lifting off hundreds of veils as the play and the characters slowly reveal themselves. Or maybe an onion, being peeled, layer by layer. (Please forgive those rather tortured metaphors…or similes….thank God I’m not an English teacher…) But you get the idea, very little happens in a flash of brilliance. The actor and director work day by day, slowly figuring out the best, most honest way to tell the story and emotionally engage the audience. By nature, I am easily frustrated by that gentle pace and I become embarrassed or upset when theatrical moments are not fully performance ready. On the first day of rehearsal. It’s ridiculous, of course, but I had the good fortune to have a director who understood the dangers of leaping to a superficially polished product too early. She made sure we were always asking questions and not grabbing at answers before we actually had them. Ms. Coury is a wise director.

In the end, I am extremely pleased with the show, and the 37 people we finally opened with. People that are continuing to grow as the run of I AM MY OWN WIFE proceeds.

So it seems you can learn a lot; and this old dog did indeed learn some new tricks. Hmmm… I just keep feeling like there was something else I learned. Something big. Oh wait, yes, I can’t believe I almost forgot! This is huge! The most difficult, painful lesson of all. I learned how to wear panty-hose. And let me tell you, that lesson was….well, I don’t want to talk about it…..

But to all you women out there who have spent a lifetime wearing these nylon torture devices, let me say this: SISTERS, YOU ARE MADE OF STRONGER STUFF THAN I !!!!!

See you at the theatre!


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