When I began this project I looked at "Vicki" as a modest and simple role. Playing the level-headed daughter in a modern romantic comedy/murder mystery with 52 lines cues and 5 entrances seemed mildly simple compared to my former projects this year – playing 4 separate characters in Almost, Maine and tackling Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II.
Yet, somewhere along the way I lost touch with my initial impressions of this play, and allowed the text to overwhelm me. There was a period in rehearsal when – much to my director’s dismay, I am sure – I could not find the truth in the lines.
My character became flat and hypocritical in my mind—I wondered what motivated her. I questioned her choice of diction, her actions, her relationships with her family. I could not connect the action. What was the moment before? I could not imagine what she was doing offstage, what she did when she was alone, what her relationship was like with her finance (who never appears in the show, but is frequently spoken about).
Worst of all, I could not figure out her function in the play. Here is a young woman who is about to enter into marriage with Lester – a man that “worships” her, despite the fact that he never appears in the play to support her. She is responsible, business savvy and intelligent, yet she shows her immaturity by calling her father “Daddy”. Her immediate family is completely dysfunctional, only coming together to plan her wedding—a wedding that is only important to the play due to a plot convention used to serve a piece of poisoned wedding cake to her despicable father.
Last weekend I finally had an epiphany – What if I approached this play as a film script?
In college I remember sitting in film class, with the camera over my right shoulder as my scene partner recited a rather lengthy monologue (as far as films go) from Sex, Lies and Video Tape. I remember my scene partner struggling, asking questions – Do I know about the affair at this point in the script? Have I made the decision to ask for a divorce? Etc. I remember my professor passing down these words of knowledge: Keep it simple. Play the moment.
What he meant when he said these words to here is something that he emphasized many times in class. When you make a film you will most likely be filming scenes out of order –so to think in terms of a timeline is often counterproductive. The successful film actor asks themselves these two things: What do I want in this scene? How am I going to get it? The rest is just listening and reacting.
So I thought to myself, what if I just play the moment? I brought myself back to the basics. I found myself in the moment, discovered goals and new tactics for my character. I listened to my mother, I listened to my brother and I listened to my father. And somehow through it all I think I got back to the roots of my character.
With only three rehearsals left, I am ready to put on my costumes for the first time tonight and hopefully discover the inner Vicki. Let’s get this show on a roll!