Acting. My age.

Wait Until DarkAt one point in this play I’m rehearsing, I have to make a leap. It’s not a dance leap, not a plié. More like a pâté. A gristly splat. The springing is okay; I can still spring. It’s the landing that’s rough. Not right away – I’m in the moment, in character, and he don’t care about no stinkin’ bruises. But later, and the next day, oooh, it feels like a sacrifice for my art.

This, it turns out, is acting in my forties. It’s been half a lifetime since I did any stage acting. The last time I was in a play, Ronald Reagan was in the White House. He was an actor too. He’s dead now.

I’m in QNEK‘s production of Wait Until Dark, which opens at the Haskell Opera House next Friday. My greatest worry going into the play was that I wouldn’t be able to remember my lines. I’ve found in my forties that my brain doesn’t retain information like it used to, probably because there’s 25 more years’ worth of stuff in there than when I last acted. I believe 32 percent of that extra stuff is security passwords. Another 13 percent are episodes of “Friends.”

Would I be able to memorize my lines at age 48 the way I could at age 23? It’s hard to say because I have no memory of memorizing my lines at 23, which is ironic and not particularly helpful. But then I recall what I was doing to my brain at age 23, so it’s actually a pretty even playing field.

As it turns out, I remember my lines just fine – in the shower, driving the car, walking to work, doing the dishes. Got those lines nailed down! On stage, though, with props and movement and other actors distracting me with their own lines, I get thrown off. If the director would only allow me to deliver my lines while folding laundry, I think I’d be fine.

Reduced flexibility aside, not to mention the worrisome possibility of early onset dementia literally occurring on set, in many ways acting in my forties is better than my twenties.

For starters, there’s less sex. I don’t mean on stage. And I don’t mean for me specifically, because, given the spotty romantic record of my early twenties, it’s once again a pretty even playing field. I mean less drama – less “drama” drama, usually having to do with the coupling or attempted coupling or the uncoupling that invariably occurs when two or three young actors are gathered together. Maybe it has something to do with all those costume changes, but for actors in their twenties, a play is just the second syllable of “foreplay.”

Twenty-five years later, I’m married, and the only pickup lines around here these days are, “Would you pick up dog food after work? Would you pick up your socks off the floor?” Acting is a hobby, not a potential singles bar. It was either theatre or curling, so that tells you something.

There’s also less pretention in my forties. Actors like to remind mere mortals that it takes such courage to be vulnerable onstage. That’s a bit much. Rescuing orphans from a burning building: that takes courage. But in my twenties, being an actor felt like the noblest of pursuits, more free-thinking than everyone else, more iconoclastic, more obnoxious – a breeding ground for pretentious behaviour. If actors in their twenties were to suddenly disappear, it would mean the collapse of the global trench coat market.

Paradoxically, those pretentious young actors are also as insecure as they are randy. Not only are they consumed with self-doubt but they live in constant fear that a fellow actor is going to steal their thunder. Or their girlfriend.

In my forties, on the other hand, acting is merely a lark – a surprisingly difficult, mildly terrifying lark, but a fulfilling pastime that doesn’t involve going to the gym. I don’t feel pretentious, nor, for that matter, do I really feel comfortable saying “a sacrifice for my art.” I know that acting in my forties isn’t going to influence my personality the way it did in my twenties because my personality is pretty much calcified at this point. Theatre won’t take over my life, mostly because I want to get home and go to bed.

So when the curtain goes up next Friday night, it won’t be the end of the world if I fall flat on my face. I’ll just be a little sore. Probably for weeks.

*

QNEK’s production of Wait Until Dark runs October 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 pm and October 12 at 2:00 pm at the Haskell Opera House, Stanstead, Que./Derby Line, Vt.

*

Want more acting tips? Listen to this? Originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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61 Responses to Acting. My age.

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    That sounds very exciting! ON the stage is the last place I should ever be, but I enjoy sitting in front of one. I wish you well. Or I guess I should say break a leg!

  2. Very cool, Ross! I would love to see you up on stage breaking a, er, pulling a muscle for the sake of the craft.
    Anyone who keeps security passwords and Friends’ episodes in the same brain will forever be someone who speaks my language. Good luck!!
    Michelle

    Psst: may I borrow some of your pick up lines? I’m sure they would resonate with the hubs!

  3. byebyebeer says:

    You’re such a gifted writer. I hope you know that. And an inspiration to us 40-somethings. Break a leg! (but not really!)

  4. Paul says:

    That’s cool Ross – that you’re doing a public play. I’ve always admired those who act non- professionally (as opposed to unprofessionally – Ha!). It takes a lot of guts to get up on stage and pour forth when you know the dishes and laundry await at home – and matching socks, don’t get me started.Ha!

    Good luck Ross and, as they say, break a leg.

  5. Ned's Blog says:

    Being a fellow 48-year-old, I’d like to offer something insightful and profound about the parallel between acting and… something. But I forget what it was.

    Or as old thespians always say: “LINE!”

  6. Elyse says:

    As a former actress, I just loved this. So many perfect parts — but this was my favorite line: “If the director would only allow me to deliver my lines while folding laundry, I think I’d be fine” (well, next to the fact that RR is dead, which I’m pretty sure you had nothing to do with).

    I’d always thought that I’d try to go back to doing plays some day when I retire. I’ll just make sure there is no jumping involved.

    I’m not quite sure if I should, but I’ll say “break a leg next Friday, Ross.” Just be assured I don’t mean it literally.

  7. kerbey says:

    The fact that you are involved in this lark, which does take more than just discipline and memorization, is wonderful. Don’t they say that learning new things (lines) can prevent Alzheimer’s, or at least delay it? How exciting! Keep in mind that Gene Kelly (40 at the time) did have a 103-degree fever when he filmed the iconic dance sequence in the 1952 MGM movie musical “Singin’ in the Rain,” so surely you can leap and whatnot. I realize that eight years is a long time, though, from 40 to 48. I mean, when you were 40, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging. North Korea tested its first nuclear missile. A lot can happen. Good thing you’re doing this before you turn 50.

  8. Oh I like this so much, Ross! You really do deliver the best advice on getting old. KIDDINGGG. BREAK A LEG! Figuratively, of course!

  9. Judy Smith says:

    Thank you, Ned Hickson, for reblogging this crazy Cannuck! (I’ll bet you don’t say THAT either, Ross.) My husband and I are involved in theatre, so this is funny stuff. And by “involved,” I mean we do some stuff there. I was a theatre major in college (WTH was I thinking?!), and in later life (which I guess is what this is) was executive assistant to a CEO. My husband has played a few minor, ridiculously fun roles in HIS later years (which aren’t as late as mine), and he builds sets. And does sound. And lighting in a pinch — and theaters are always pinched. Imma follow you, dude.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Yay, thanks. And thanks to Ned.
      I didn’t think I missed theatre at all but I’m having a great time in a part that is just exactly big enough.
      Thanks for the follow; see you around.

  10. ksbeth says:

    break a leg, just not during your plie, and the good thing about being older and acting, is that if you do forget something, because your brain cells have begun to atrophy, you’ve also got more life experience from which you can choose an alternative phrase to blurt out. all good –

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I thought of including something like that in this piece — how life experience informs character. But then I remembered that I will never again play the innocent romantic lead, and that kind of made me sad.

  11. Lily says:

    That’s very brave of you. I believe I was twelve or thirteen the last time I was on stage. I forgot my lines and ran off stage crying. Smooth recovery on my part. But you’ll be great. Break a leg!

  12. That is exciting….I loved drama in high school and regret never getting on a stage. Best of luck Ross…you’ll be great!!

  13. pinklightsabre says:

    Gosh, you jammed a lot of jam into this here thing. You’re in good form.

  14. breezyk says:

    Awesome Ross- good luck! Wish it was in Tdot so I could see your big (re) debut!

  15. A highly enjoyable report. Some people don’t know what to do with their arms when on stage. Sometimes they hang there like giant sausages and sometimes they flail around like they’re signaling an F-14 coming in for a landing on an aircraft carrier deck. Break a leg next week. I’d come up there and see it if I could. I would! I clicked on the link. It looks like a nice venue.

    I actually misread it as “…less penetration in my forties.” Freud would have a field day with that one.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The Haskell is an amazing place. I don’t know how much you read, but the stage is Canada and half the audience is in the United States. There’s a line down the floor. Downstairs is the library. Needless to say, it draws a lot of tourists, which it isn’t designed to accommodate. It makes it tough for the librarian to run a library sometimes. (I’m on the board, can you tell?)

      “Penetration…” Well…

  16. Lynn Leimer says:

    Ross, you are HILARIOUS!!! You wear 48 well….can’t wait to see you, BRAVO!

  17. markbialczak says:

    I think you will be able to remember to act your age, Ross. Break a leg. In the figurative show biz sense, of course, not on the spring, nor the landing …

  18. Letizia says:

    I love that you are acting in a play after all this time. I sort of wish you would fold your laundry while on stage.

  19. pieterk515 says:

    Acting at any age seems like a daunting task to me.

  20. pieterk515 says:

    Good luck with the play…or break a leg…which might seem kind of inappropriate, considering your pending leap on stage…

    Oh and that damn return button… Now my comment is split in two…like a femur of a 48 year-old, attempting to leap on stage..

  21. BREAK A LEG tonight! Remember your lines and don’t bump into the furniture. What fun! I’m jealous. I only ever get to sit in the audience.

  22. Pingback: More scenery in my diet, or what I learned from community theatre | Drinking Tips for Teens

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