…but that negates the point, now doesn’t it?
Something really surprised me this past week, as my show opened and all the points of my life came to a sudden-yet-non-injurious collision. The story is as follows: there are, in the gothic horror rock musical of which I am a castmember, two other “queer” characters. Well, since they’re siamese twins, I suppose they only count as one other character, but anyway. Since the show is good but the transitions are still challenging, at certain points we need a little filler banter/etc to cover the fact that almost the entire cast is running about pushing platforms into place and moving chairs. Suffice it to say, at the end of the musical number which features these very talented women, they decided to vamp and improv with the audience until the next scene change was done. During notes the night before opening, they asked if someone performing the scene change could give them a verbal clue as to when to finish up and get off stage, and I, brilliant as I sometimes am, thought “Hey – my character is supposed to be a lesbian carnie. Wouldn’t she have something going with the bisexual siamese twins at this place?”, and volunteered.
So that’s a lot of backstory to say that I wrote myself at least one more line, which is great, but here’s the rub: when we performed it on opening night, it was a total hit with the audience. They loved seeing us flirt. I finished my scene change and strolled up to the lovely ladies, oozing confidence and charm and lesbian pheromones in spite of the fact that my parents were in the audience. I bantered with the best of them, to the laughs and clapping of the crowd, and stepped back onstage into the next scene as planned. But wait! you say – what’s the problem? That sounds great!
The problem, my friends, is that in that moment – in that choice that I made – I completely abandoned my character. I became, well… a stereotype of myself. And while it was fine and we pulled it off, it wasn’t what Skip would do.
I’ve struggled for a long time trying to avoid playing a lesbian stereotype on stage, even though I get cast in that role twice as often as anything else. But when I get an opportunity to do something different, I fall back on this persona I cultivated at the Prestigious Women’s College – all cock and no walk. Sure, it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and no one but me noticed, but it says a lot about my insecurities as an actor. I’m still afraid to leave my comfort zone, even in the easiest of circumstances. I can still push myself further, and flesh out a character – a lesbian or queer or butch character, no less – who is truly more than just a collection of stereotypes.
This weekend’s banter will be different. Because it’s up to me to make it real.