BWW Blog: Multi-Hyphenate Hill
The last time I wrote an article, I was in the midst of being a Production Stage Manager-and as I come to you now, I'm halfway through a weeklong staged reading rehearsal process, this time as an actor. Within our theatre department at Ithaca College, we have five majors: BFA Musical Theatre, BFA Acting, BFA Theatre Production & Design, BS Theatre Arts Management, and my major, BA Theatre Studies, or the "BATS," as we call ourselves. To some people, Theatre Studies is the catch-all major, where those who do "everything else" go. While it's not entirely untrue that playwrights, stage managers, directors, and dramaturgs, all of whom don't fall under any other major listed, end up as BATS, I like to think of it as the major for multi-hyphenates.
There are a ton of students in the IC Theatre Arts department who are multi-hyphenate theatre artists, be they BATS or not; but I do happen to feel we are the royalty of the multi-hyphenated career titles. It's the best way I can explain spending my September as a stage manager, my October as an actor, my November as a playwright, and my December as a dramaturg/director (more to come on those last two later!)-because the fact is, I'm actually all five at once. I hope to write more in the future about my processes as a playwright and a dramaturg/director when I get to that point in the semester; but for the time being, I'm feeling very rejuvenated to be back in my actor skin, one I haven't tried on in a pretty long time.
I've spent this week in the rehearsal room for a reading of The Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge for a group at Ithaca College called On the Verge. There is typically one reading each semester, directed by Claire Gleitman, a professor in the English department, often utilizing students and professors from both the English and theatre departments as actors, stage managers, assistant directors, and dramaturgs. I'm playing Honor Blake, one of the village girls, a role that's involved learning an Irish accent (something I relished) and more giggling than I ever thought I could manage (something that's taken a little more motion out of my comfort zone). I've almost always loved getting to go to rehearsal, no matter my position on a production; but this week has felt particularly special to me. It's the first time in at least a year and a half, perhaps more, that I've been an actor rather than taking on a role behind-the-scenes, and I was nervous to be back on this side of the table. I worried that I might've lost some vital acting muscle, or that I simply wouldn't enjoy acting as much as I always had in the past.
What's actually happened, though, is that I've remembered why I loved theatre in the first place. It can be really difficult sometimes, when you're in college studying theatre, to remember how it feels separately from your classes and your education. That education is a very valuable thing, not to be discounted; but it's really important to be aware of how clinical your connection to theatre can become if you don't spend time on the practice of theatre, too. I'd already been lamenting how analyzing productions leads to a near-inability to see a performance without going through the same analytical processes in your mind; but it wasn't until I had a chance to be a part of a rehearsal process in an old-new way, one I hadn't tried in a long time, that I realized I'd forgotten just what was so much fun about being in this industry. Though our process for The Playboy of the Western World is quite short, getting the chance to discuss character relationships, play around with comedic moments, and be a part of the community that has formed amongst our team has given me new vigor and passion with which to continue my senior year.
In addition to how easy it can be to let passion dry up in favor of strictly intellectual thinking, it can also be surprisingly easy to let yourself lose sight of some of the titles that go in between your multiple hyphens. It's hard, near-impossible, to do more than one in a big way at any given time-fair enough. And in a larger industry context of trying to be among the best in a particular arena, it's much simpler to specialize in one area, focusing your efforts there. But I'm all for fighting the fight to keep doing all of the things that make you remember why you love theatre-why you're doing this at all. Multi-Hyphenate Hill is the hill I'm prepared to die on.