Everything Is Already Something Week 6: The Off Night

Allison Page tells you all about her no good, very bad day.

Warning: I’m about to be really honest about my shortcomings.

If I’m anything, I’m reliable. I’m consistent. I’m ready to go. I’m on, baby.

Cut to Monday night. I’m at rehearsal. We’re doing a run through in front of some designers. These nice people have not seen any of the other rehearsals.

I had been having an extremely awful day. I very rarely have those in the first place, maybe twice a year, and certainly not ones that stress me out to the point that this one had. That day can only be described as gloomy chaos and/or depressing confusion with a side of terror about the future and an overwhelming sense of foreboding. I didn’t eat anything, and instead had like 4 coffees before rehearsal.

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS, YA’LL.

Aaaaand…GO!

ALLISON: Jeoarb, gjoiw gniwegn ning…woijtow.

LEADING MAN: …what?

ALLISON: Uh…gruabfow fofwep couscous?

LEADING MAN: …what?

And the Tony goes to…ANYONE BUT ME. The entire evening it was like I was speaking in tongues. I distinctly remember hearing my own voice coming out of my mouth and thinking, “Who is that? Who’s talking? Is that a wookie with a head injury and a bunch of pain killers?” It was awful. I couldn’t concentrate. If I was in character it definitely wasn’t the right character. My movements were all alien, my blocking was weird; I just didn’t seem like a person. It was so apparent that Mr. Leading Man looked me in the eyes and whispered “Hey…listen to me, Allison.”, because I hadn’t been. Like, at all. Every one of my lines sounded like I was reading it off of a cue card written in wingdings.

Alas, poor Yorick, he was all...uh...line?

Alas, poor Yorick, he was all…uh…line?

Then came the hat, and all was lost.

There are a few beach scenes in the first act, and for the first time we were trying out some costume pieces. I grab the beach hat and put it on. And it is the size of the moon. Mr. Leading Man takes one look at me and loses his shit. So I start laughing, and then the director starts laughing. And then there’s this weird scattered laughter. It’s not one of those “Oh, we’re having a really good time and everything’s silly!” types of laughter, but an uncomfortable, “For the love of God can’t anything go well right now?!” that felt more like we were laughing against our will. I try to pull together, but it’s nearly useless. I try to reason with myself: “Allison, what would Laurence Olivier do?” and all I come up with is “First of all, he wouldn’t be wearing this fucking hat.” So that doesn’t work. We fling ourselves headlong down the flight of stairs that is the rest of the dialogue and suddenly everything is over. I had this overwhelming feeling that the director’s mind was full of “Wait…why did I cast her in this part, again?” which, to be honest, would have made sense to think about, considering that I wasn’t displaying any of the qualities required by that character for the duration of that rehearsal.

What? Why are you calling me? You KNOW I don't have any reception under this hat.

What? Why are you calling me? You KNOW I don’t have any reception under this hat.

I had gotten through the whole day thinking that rehearsal would save me from the gloomy chaos, and if I could just get there everything was going to be great because we’ve actually had the most wonderful rehearsals. The director is fantastic, the cast is glorious and has this almost perfect chemistry across the board. We actually like being around each other, and we actually like these characters, and we put the work in, and it’s been like cruisin’ on down the river on a gamblin’ boat…or something. I just hated myself for ruining that. That’s how I perceived it, anyway.

I left almost without a word, and proceeded to a bar to drink a bundle of whiskey.

I felt cripplingly guilty. Like an accidental saboteur. When I was satisfied that I’d had just the right amount of whiskey to help me sleep but not dehydrate me the next day – I took a cab home. The driver and I got to talking – what with all the whiskey in my system – and I told him how my day just sucked, start to finish. I mentioned my rehearsal and he said, “Oh, I’m a comedian, so I hear ya.” And I said “So am I!”, he told me his name and I told him mine…and we had never heard of each other. Then I mentioned that I’m a company member of a particular sketch comedy group and he responded with “Ohhh! I saw a show of theirs last year! It was great, and there was this one sketch that I just loved…” and then he started quoting a sketch he had seen over a year ago.

ME: …I wrote that. You just quoted my own sketch back to me.

DRIVER: Seriously?! Oh man, that was so awesome! I was dyin’!

ME: Huh. Small world.

DRIVER: Man, that was great!

ME: I’m so glad you liked it!

DRIVER: I loved it! You’re really talented, so don’t even worry about it.

He gave me his card, I thanked him for the lovely ride, which was basically the only good thing that happened to me that day, and sauntered into the corner store. I bought a frozen pizza, took it home, and ate the entire thing at 1am while silently staring and thinking about the day.

I’ve never allowed myself to have an off day like people do. I can always get through with at least a faint sparkle, but that’s not what happened on Monday. Does that make me some kind of monstrosity or a terrible actor or an unreliable person? More importantly – why am I questioning myself like this? I’m a human and as such, I’m just not ever going to be perfect, particularly if I go around agonizing over that very idea. I’m able to say all of this and not feel all shame-y about it mostly because I went to rehearsal last night and it was nothing like the Monday debacle. I was a person again and I didn’t feel like a failure. When it comes right down to it, I know that I am the person for the job, there’s no question in my mind about that. Well, there was a question in my mind about it on Monday night, but that’s just because I was speaking wingdings to myself. I’m good at what I do, and I had an off night. Those things are not mutually exclusive and I very likely made my night even off-er by beating myself up about it the entire time. And it was just a rehearsal. A rehearsal. That’s all. We’re heading into tech week and I personally plan to be as fucking fantastic as possible and forget that Monday ever existed for me.

After all, I bet even Laurence Olivier had an off day once in a while.

Also, I got a smaller hat.

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3 comments on “Everything Is Already Something Week 6: The Off Night

  1. And then there’s the horror of a really good on-night and flawless performance with a wonderful receptive audience. Totally ruins the next performance. (I’m sure if it was a performance night, you would have eaten better and that special performance adrenaline would have kicked in!)

    • Allison says:

      From now on I’m eating a whole ham every day!
      And yes, that good old adrenaline can certainly help out.

  2. Jan says:

    There was a point in TAMING OF THE SHREW where I was so sure that I was the weak link in an otherwise amazing show that I actually had a very vivid dream about it. Stuart and I were housemates, kind of stepping around each other at breakfast, and he said, “Jan, I’ve decided to completely cut your character from the play. We don’t need Baptista that badly after all, and it’s the only way to save the production.” I agreed with him completely, told him I would support him fully-it was clearly the only option, I was so sorry.” I woke up thinking, WTF?!??! REALLY, Jan?!? Forget yourself and get to work. But I was sincere… 😉

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