Last night, I measured out a 6-foot by 15-foot rectangle on the carpet, marketing it in place with masking tape. I brought in a chair and a stool and a green sock, and placed them inside the rectangle. I set up several chairs outside the rectangle, facing towards it, and that was that. I was ready.
When ‘Wretch Like Me’ director Sheri Lee Miller arrived for our rehearsal, she now had an approximation of the same environment we’ll be working with in Edinburgh, where my performance space (Theater 2 at the Surgeon’s Hall museum) will have a 5-meter by 2-meter stage in a room big enough for 51 audience members. Cozy and comfortable, and perfect for a one-person-show.
The limited space has given Sheri and number of challenges, and we’ve reduced the furniture and props to a bare, spare minimum, which puts the emphasis on what is happening on the face of the performer, aka ME. I have certainly grown as a performer since taking this project on half a decade ago (still think of myself as a “performer” more than an “actor”), and Sheri’s faith and encouragement over the last six months has been invaluable. She demands a lot of me, and little by little, during intense, sometimes powerfully emotional rehearsals like last night’s, I am finding ways to break out of my own rectangle of doubt and caution, and am able to give my director at least some of what she’s asking of me.
It’s funny. I’ve been performing one version or another of this story since 2009, and though I have had the occasional emotional moment on stage (performing it with my mom in the audience was one of those times), I was sure I had moved past the point where the show stirred up any new tears, insights or memories. Something about stripping the show down to a lean, mean 75 minutes and placing it inside a box the size of a U-Haul truck bed has brought the show home, and I’ve had a couple of moments in the last week where this show has reared up and kicked my butt all over again. By performing ‘Wretch Like Me’ with less and less, this very personal story is returning to its roots, and is gradually becoming more and more and more.
I have just a few days till I trot it out again at the fundraiser in Sonoma. I hope I have a nice little group of fans and curious supporters on hand to watch this next step in the evolution of ‘Wretch Like Me,’ of the effort to get the show to Edinburgh, and of David Templeton, the performer.
Click here to see a sketch of what the performance space in Scotland will be like: