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 Cerny. Cerny 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.
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.
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.