Taking Direction

I went to bed a little late last night since I was so busy uploading pictures from the Normandy trip. I made sure I would still be getting more than eight hours of sleep when my alarm would go off, but I was definitely in a world of hurt when I got up this morning. Normally, my alarm will go off, and I will get out of bed and shut it off before it’s gone off three times. Today… it went off five times before I was able to get out of bed, orient myself, and shut it off. I was slowly making my bed, and Sheila came out to say “Good morning” and go set the table. Because I was feeling so awful, I replied “Who said it was ‘good?'” but the voice that came out was all raspy and squeaky. “Oh no! Your monologue!” Sheila reminded me. The next thing out of mouth would be something you’d expect out of a pre-pubescent rebellious mouse if it spoke English and had just stubbed its toe on a counter. I stumbled out into the kitchen to have my breakfast and a big cup of tea. After eating, I kept my tea cup and had a couple mugs of honey lemon tea as I got ready for my day. Sheila left to head to Sweet Briar to go to lunch, and I stayed home to rest until I had to go to my class. I took allergy meds, and some Dayquil to try to get rid of my symptoms before I’d have to leave and do that monologue… I ended up skipping lunch, but I did a lot of work getting the blog for the Normandy trip up.

When I got to creepy Paris III, Ella and Rachel (two girls from Northwestern) were already there. They’ve been having trouble getting into the same kind of class I’m in, and mine was their last shot. They got to talk to my professor and explained that they’d been trying to get into the other classes and no other professor would let them in. After Professor Bruhnes said that they wanted to get into this class because it was obviously the best class, he accepted them. Most of our classmates were late today, but we figured out who would be performing monologues today, and I was one of them. I ended up going fourth. Despite my cold, I felt pretty good about how I did. The class laughed when I thought they should, so that was reassuring. Professor Bruhnes’ usual “method” after someone does a monologue involves getting up, shaking the person’s hand, saying something he liked, then critiquing them, and proceeding with the workshop. For me… he snapped his fingers, THEN shook my hand, and I took that as a good sign. Then he said “I really love Americans.” I smiled. “You have a lot of presence, and the first thing you should want to do as an actor is bring pleasure to an audience, which is probably why you picked a comedic piece… and you picked a classic… but I don’t think you quite understood all of the text.” Kinda needed a little aloe vera for that burn, but he’s always nice about these kind of things. He then proceeded to put both of his hands behind his rear end like a double-fin landshark and say “elle parle comme ça” (she talks like this) and I wasn’t she if he was asking me to do my monologue like that, or if he was saying that I did it like that, so I asked for clarification. He laughed and said that it’s so cute how every other thing I said was “I don’t understand, could you say that a different way please?” He told me to just do the monologue again, and I’d figure it out, so I did… and I realized that it was something I unknowingly already did, so I corrected it. I was also having trouble doing the monologue to the audience as opposed to the ceiling or to the floor (which is hard for just about everyone), so we worked on that. He then asked me to try to do the monologue like I was angry, and not just distressed, so he parked me back in the corner I was entering from and had me “get angry.” He had me recall a time when I was actually angry and channel that, which is easy to do, I do that all the time anyway. He sat back down, and I kept fuming, so he laughed and said “I love Americans. You tell them to get angry, and they turn into The Hulk in 30 seconds.” Doing Harpagon’s monologue from L’Avare in an angry and slow manner (at least for the first handful of it) feels incredibly unnatural to me. We tried doing it about three times, which was met with roars from my classmates until Professor Bruhnes decided it didn’t work, and switched my emotion a couple times. After a few rounds of that, I grumbled just loud enough so everyone could hear me, “This is what I get for picking a Molière piece.” Professor Bruhnes replied “It is, and you knew this is what you’d get.” Then we got to the big one. “You did the monologue like you were having an internal crisis when you first did it, but you were having that crisis all over the space. Now I want you to have it in one spot.” I gave him an odd look. He stood next to me and did what I can only describe as the pee-pee dance while saying the first few lines of my monologue. So that’s what I did. Then he told me to go back to my corner, and do that while I entered, then continue doing it once I got to my spot. So I did, but I threw in a sprinkler or two for good measure, since having a half-seizure-half-pee-pee-dance on stage while proclaiming that I’ve been killed because someone stole my money wasn’t enough. In the middle of this, Professor Bruhnes bellowed “TOMBER” (FALL) at me. “Tomber?” I asked as I continued my pee pee dance. “Oui! Tomber!” So fall I did, and my seizure monologue continued on the floor as I held myself up with one arm, struggling a little to project over the roars of my classmates. A line or two later, Professor Bruhnes bellowed again, “SCHLINGUER!” This is a word I have never heard before. “Schlinguer? Qu’est ce-que schlinguer?” (Hint: It actually means “to stink” and it means “to stink like a corpse” in slang.) “MORT!” (DIE) “D’accord. Mort.” (Okay. Die.) So die I did. I flopped onto my back, trying to choke my monologue out and not laugh at how funny this was since everyone else in the class had absolutely lost it. Professor Bruhnes stopped me. “Now you know what I want you to do!” Back to the corner I went. I entered doing my pee pee dance, doing my monologue, then he cued me to fall, so I fell, and I continued my seizure, then he cued me to die, so I died, screaming about how I’d been robbed… and then Professor Bruhnes could see how spent of energy I was, and he stood up, took my hand, partially to shake it again, partially to pull me off of the ground (since I’d taken schlinguer a little too seriously by this point). I bent over to catch my breath, and choked out “C’est fatiguant.” He said he agreed. “80% of actors, maybe more don’t have nearly as much courage as you do, certainly not enough to do what I just made you do today. You have so much energy. You’re a wonderful actress, and we’re lucky to have you. You know what you need to work on, and you’re going to do great.” I’m going to say that was a success… But it wasn’t quite over… Something that hadn’t happened after anyone else’s monologue happened immediately following mine. Applause. I have never felt so honored in my entire life. You could tell Professor Bruhnes had put me through the hardest workshop to date, partly because I’d picked a comedic piece, and partly because we knew I could handle it, and that was definitely an honor all in itself… We took a break after I was done, so I ran out to the vending machine to get some tea since I’d completely lost my voice. When I came back into the room with my tea, one of the students pulled me aside. She said that she wanted to help me with my pronunciation for my monologue! She has a cousin from Washington D.C. and I remind her of that cousin… the cousin happens to be here right now. She remembers being in D.C. learning English, spotting a French girl immediately, and making a new friend so that they could help each other through the tough times, and she wanted to help me since she’s been in my shoes. Luckiest day of my life… A couple other girls did their monologues after the break was over. We all settled back down. I’m still reeling after doing my piece. I probably will be for the rest of the week.

I took the metro with Ella and Rachel to head home. Rachel had to get off first, but Ella and I take the same lines, she just gets off a little earlier. We talked a bit about travel plans, and about how our theatre programs differ back home, so that was a lot of fun. Sheila was already home when I got home, and Rouge was online when I turned on my computer, so I told them both all about my monologue, then I finished up my Normandy blog. Madame came home and said we’d be having dinner early since she was going to have dinner with a friend tonight. We had our dinner at seven, and it was just for me and Sheila. Madame stood in the kitchen to talk with us a little bit, mainly to ask when people in America had dinner, and we said it was usually around six. We had a steak, the potato and cheese dish from last night, the shredded carrots, and a salad, which was a pretty delicious, well-rounded meal. I got a chance to talk to both Taylor, and my big sister tonight, so that was always a wonderful thing.

I’ve had an amazing day, despite it starting out on a less than stellar note. I’m hoping this cold passes quickly. I’m going to keep hitting it with lots of tea, water, good vibes, cough drops (gluten-free of course), and maybe some more pee pee dancing monologues.

Je ne dois qu’à moi seul toute ma renommée. Corneille: “L’Excuse à Ariste”

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