I Am Leaning
I am leaning against the entrance to the Roundabout Theatre, in Encinitas, sipping a cup of coffee. We are on a ten minute break from rehearsal, so I am taking a moment to catch a bit of the sunset. It’s beautiful today – bright and golden and setting the clouds in the sky on fire with streaks of pink and orange. I can see a little bit of the ocean from where I am standing, shining and silvery, and I can’t resist texting an actor friend in New York. “Please note: I can see the ocean from the theatre door.” The reply I receive is basically an expletive and I smile, knowing my mission of jealousy-making has been thoroughly accomplished.
Howard joins me at the door and we watch the sunset in silence for a moment. I smile at him and think to myself how strange it is that we have become good friends already. In the world of the play, Howard and I are married – Lord and Lady Capulet – but in life, we met about ten days ago. I had arrived at rehearsal in the middle of a walk–through of the Capulet party scene in Act One. Christy, one of our fearless directors, silently pointed me towards my entrance so I could step into the scene. Howard was onstage at that moment, a bombastic Lord Capulet entertaining “multitudes” of guests. He spotted me as I took my place and immediately approached me with a tender gleam in his eye, his words paving his path: “…which of you all will now deny to dance?…” and that was it. We were married. I smiled and shook my head at him knowingly. I mean, he always gets this way at parties. He’ll be three sheets to the wind before dinner! In a matter of moments, our history had begun, our relationship had been established, and the world of the play had sprung up around us.
This is one of the things I love about theatre: the process of collaborative creation. We both know that we have a part of this story to tell. We haven’t said one word of introduction to each other, and already we’ve been married for 15 years. (A few minutes later, Christy stops the scene to correct some blocking and I take that moment to say hello properly.) Acting is about saying “yes”: yes to the world that we are creating together, yes to an imaginary relationship, yes to jumping into the middle of it all and playing a part in a much bigger story. Where else in life is everyone so completely agreeable to things you make up in your head? It’s fantastic.
But, the process is definitely not without its rough patches. Howard joins me today to watch the sunset probably because he knows I’ve been having some challenges with my character. There are questions I haven’t been able to answer about my own history and it is affecting my ability to work through a scene. This is part of the job, though. It’s my task to answer these questions in as many different ways as I can and then determine which solutions work best for the story. So, as we sip our coffee together, we begin to talk about our “relationship” – how we met, what our marriage has been like, our point of view on our daughter, Juliet. In these discussions, we haven’t always agreed, but Savvy, who plays the Nurse, thinks this is as it should be. “You are married, after all,” she said to me after rehearsal one day. “Why would you agree on everything?” The sun dips below the horizon and I think about her words as I am listening as my “husband” share his thoughts on our marriage. All of a sudden, I think I’m beginning to understand what it means to be a wife, at least in the world of this play.
Tiffany Tang (Lady Capulet)