Posts Tagged ‘Three Sisters Or Perestoika’

Stretching Myself Between Three Sisters And A Truck Stop Prostitute

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

I stand tall, take in a deep breath, spread my legs, and stretch my arms in opposite directions reaching for infinity.   Lines flow effortlessly through my mind.  Lines from a play I performed in, lines from a movie I starred in, and lines from my ex-girlfriend in the throws of love.  I tilt my body towards my right leg to complete the triangle. The movement into Triangle pose softens the lines on my face as I attempt to balance my fictitious characters, my romantic life, and reality.

Yoga helps me to find balance, stretch my brain, and my body at the same time.   In this world of multitasking, I have gotten in the habit of going over my acting lines for auditions or performances while I breathe and bend. I hear Olga from the play Three Sisters saying, “In a little while we will know what we are living for.  Why we are suffering.  If we only knew. .. If we only knew…”  Heather from the movie Lot Lizard, in an emotional moment, reaches out to her lover and says “What I really want is to cut myself to pieces, but I thought maybe just maybe, if you touched me, I might not feel it for a minute. “ A romantic line from my ex-girlfriend on the other side of the world creeps in,  “You send me shooting stars and I send you sunshine.”

I recently finished performing the role of Olga in a world premier translation of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, Three Sisters, set in Russia during Perestroika in the 1980’s, adapted and directed by Pavel Cerney. Cerney re-imagined the role of Olga, typically played as the spinster sister, as a lesbian, trapped in small town Siberia longing to escape to the freedom of liberal Moscow.  Olga is the strength and matriarch of the family, comforting her two sisters through their romantic ups and downs, sacrificing her own chance at love for their happiness.  My challenge was suggesting “lesbian” without stereotyping and staying true to those beautiful feminine emotional sections as Chekhov originally wrote them.

Just before rehearsals began for Three Sisters Or Perestroika, I played the role of Heather, a down on her luck, truck stop prostitute, in the independent feature film, Lot Lizard.  Truckers use the term, “lot lizard” to describe the ladies of the night that skulk around the rest stop parking lots offering sex for money.  Heather, a former beauty queen, trapped in a dysfunctional desert town gets involved in a drug deal gone bad and becomes a speed queen and a lot lizard indebted to her abusive drug dealer with a god complex.   Like a lizard with a hard shell and a soft center, Heather falls for Charlie, a female, drifter junkie who gives her the strength to find hope and love in a world of darkness.

I lift my leg and reach out for a Half Moon pose.  After two weeks of shooting, Lot Lizard got put on hold for refunding, restructuring, and possible recasting.  I may or may not get the opportunity to finish the film.  My foot starts to twitch and my body starts to teeter.  Right after the filming stopped, my fairytale long distance romance came to an end. The bright white sunlight of reality throws me off balance and it is too late to stop from falling.  I hit the mat hard.  I stretched my love life as far as I could to Australia and back and in the end neither of us was flexible enough to reach Nirvana. Olga wanted to escape from cold Siberia, Heather needed to escape her dessert truck stop, and I just wanted to escape from myself.  “Breathe, just breathe,” I say to myself as I lift my posterior and stretch into a Down Dog.

As I do a Shoulder Stand, I think, “What is the next step?”  I hold my Tree Pose and wonder, “How long can I last?”  I attempt another Half Moon and I think, “How will I ever achieve balance?” and ”How do I link the center of my mind with the center of my body?”  I retreat into Child’s pose and surrender into Corpse pose.  “When do I give up if it isn’t working?”  When I first started doing Yoga a few years ago I could barely touch my toes.  Now I can literally kiss my knees.  It may not sound like much but to me it is huge.  I am more flexible now than I was in High School.  My strength and flexibility have increased dramatically.

Yoga poses alternate between strength and softness.  Yin and Yang.  masculine and feminine.  I return to these themes over and over.  I workout with weights not only to maintain my health but because I love to feel the power in my muscles and I love the look of a toned body. I have also come to appreciate the beauty of softness and the flexibility that yoga gives me.  Oddly they complement each other because my stretching has allowed me to strengthen muscles that were not previously accessible and my strength has allowed me to stretch into poses I couldn’t previously hold.  It is the same journey with my sexuality and relationships.  “Am I too butch or too femme?” And how does that dynamic influence the relationship to the other person I’m with?  My butch side gives me the strength to open up my feminine side and the emotion of my feminine side makes me so much stronger.  It is a stretching of myself, a molding of my body and mind, strength and vulnerability that give me the power to know who I am and the power to be one with someone else.

I get back up into Mountain pose and flow into Warrior 1 as I regain my energy and determination.  Last year I was cast as a lot of stereotypical hard, tough, lesbian characters.   I played the role of  “butch lesbian” twice on television and “butch leather biker lesbian” in a film, a secret service agent in a web series, and a butch gym teacher, Mrs. Greasby, in the movie, Piehead (coming soon, hopefully, to a theater near you).

I also performed the role of a woman disguised as a man in the play, Slaughter City and got my teeth knocked out in a stage fight (see last blog).   More recently however, my characters have become more of a combination of that strength and softness I strive for in my yoga practice and in life.  I played an A.D. on the T.V. show, Law and Order, Olga in Three Sisters Or Perestroika, and Heather, the truckstop prostitute, in Lot LizardHeather is by far the girliest role I’ve played in a long time and the sexiest in a traditional heterosexual sense.  As you can well imagine, none of the wardrobe was mine.  The other difference from last year is that none of these characters had to be lesbians but they all could be.   Is this a sign of the times or a change in society?  Perhaps diversity is becoming more diverse? Or am I just becoming more diverse and flexible in my craft? Either way it is exciting.

 

I open my body into the Lotus position to fill myself with the beauty of breath.  How do I cast myself in my own life?  My ex-girlfriend said I changed after I started filming Lot Lizard.  Maybe I did?  Or maybe that character allowed me to connect with that feminine part of myself which has always been there.  Every character I play becomes a new exploration into the unknown.  Every day I must take another step forward whether it is in improving the flexibility and strength of my body or my acting and writing career. The progress is slow and the dynamics are constantly changing and growing along with my characters, auditions, and relationships.  The harder the pose the more I am challenged and my body learns to adapt.

The darker the character the more I stretch and grow.  The harder the audition the more I improve. The more heart breaking the relationship, the more I learn.  The journey can be frightening, disconcerting, and devastating.  Yet also fascinating, ecstatic, and enlightening.  As I succeed and fail simultaneously from one audition to the next and one relationship to the next I persevere and continue to connect the puzzle pieces to cultivate the softness and the strength to progress on to the next step of the path.  By opening my heart and building the muscles to support myself I can power through the bad times and glide effortlessly forward into the sunlight of happiness.

A final Sun Salutation and I am ready to face the world.  Every role I play in fantasy or reality, every audition, every thing I write, and every relationship brings me closer to that balance between career, love and myself.  Those are my three sisters.  I navigate the three-sided triangle balancing on the tip.  Between action and inaction there is only breath.  Just breathe.