As I mentioned last week, I’m heading off to the Valdez Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska later this month. (In point of fact, I’m heading out later this week – the conference runs from June 11 thru 18, and I’m flying out on Friday). I’m primarily going as a playwright; I’m presenting my full-length An Arctic Confederate Christmas, as well as a very short one-act that I wrote for their after-hours Valdez Fringe festival. Nevertheless, since I’ll be there for the whole conference, I’ll be participating as an actor as well (gotta do something, since I’ve got long days to fill. Extra-long days, since it’s Alaska in June). I’m reading in one full-length piece; I’m also participating in the Conference’s Monologue Workshop. The Workshop is a week of working on one-minute monologues from the Conferences’ playwrights, culminating in a performance at the end of the week – the one performance, in a week of what are otherwise staged readings, which requires the actors to be off-book. I don’t know yet if anybody will be performing one of mine – I offered them two, which the acting pool has available and can choose if they wish – but I’m signed up to perform one. A nice, straightforward, one-minute monologue. Short, to the point. And the last bit of prep work I need to do before I head to Alaska is commit it to memory.
It’s taken me a week.
For a one-minute monolgue. Not one that’s particularly knotty, or reliant on unusual jargon, or otherwise difficult. The sort of thing I used to be able to commit to memory in an afternoon’s time. Instead, I’ve been running through the piece, doing all the usual tricks I use – looking at myself in the mirror as I talk to take note of what the facial muscles are doing, reading the piece in a variety of voices, all my tried and true strategies – only for it all to turn to mush the next day. Only now, after a week of working on this, am I finally sure that the words are securely in my head.
I’m more than a little worried about this.
Now, it’s not like I’ve had nothing else to do this week. I’ve been doing all of my other preparatory errands, and scrambling to get everything squared away at my day job before this absence, and so much frantic activity isn’t exactly conducive to concentration. So it makes sense that it’s taken me this much longer to memorize something, right?
I hope so, anyway. Because there are other possible explanations.
After all, while I’ve performed over zoom as much as possible over these past two years and counting of the pandemic – which I remind you is still going on dear lord please be careful out there – I haven’t had to memorize anything in all that time. Zoom lets you have the script right in front of you, on the opposite side of your screen; my Tuesday night cold reading series, now that it’s back in person, is precisely that – a reading series. My script’s been in my hand for several years now, and it’s possible I’m just a little rusty.
That would be preferable, after all, to admitting that I’m getting older, and eventually my ability to memorize will deteriorate, and even now it takes longer than it used to for me to accomplish what was formerly a mundane task. If you can ever call anything involving the weird mysteries of performance “mundane.”
But the task is done, the words are committed to memory, I’m ready to work. Now all I have to do is get to a small town in Alaska in the middle of a pandemic. Piece of cake.