The final performance (for now) of The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will) took place at 7 pm on Sunday night, 3rd April, at the Phoenix Fringe Festival. The house was just over half full, but it seemed more, it’s such a tiny venue Space 55. It only seats around 36-40, and a few empty seats here and there don’t seem to matter.
The big guns were in. David Barker, Professor of Acting at ASU, and two guys from the Fringe Festival. Angela (our director for the Phoenix production) brought her mother, and Zack, the MFA student who had been at the VASTA conference in 2009, the one who suggested that the production would be a real treat for students if presented to them as a lecture, had come along all primed to come up when invited to do a short passage from a Shakespeare monologue. Sadly, when the moment came, I completely forgot to invite him up! Sorry, Zack!
One thing that has been relatively consistent throughout all the performances, both in Brisbane and in Phoenix, has been audience engagement. For the most part people laugh, smile, or listen intently. The Phoenix audiences were larger than in Brisbane – I don’t think we ever had more than 12 people in the audience in Brisbane, whereas we had 15 to 25 in Phoenix, and in a smaller space so they would have felt less exposed. The Phoenix audiences were also much more prepared to look me in the eye, and to respond. I could look at just about anyone, and they would look back, whereas in Brisbane many people (especially non-actors) either avoided eye contact or refused to maintain it.
The difference at the final performance was that David Barker, who arrived about 10 minutes late and sat in the front row, just looked at me impassively throughout the whole performance. He never smiled (that I noticed), nor did he ever give any indication that he was interested in the discussion, or the ideas expressed. This only became truly relevant to me when I met him the following day at the Phoenix Film Festival schools workshop. He came up to me and thanked me for working with Lauren (one of his students), asked me how she was to work with, and whether I had written the script. That was it. In my book, that is code for “I didn’t like it much, and your performance did not appeal to me either”. He probably only came because of Lauren, which is fair enough, and was only interested to check that I hadn’t been taking advantage of her, or teaching her bad habits.
So there you have it. All the people who stopped me on the way out after each of the three performances to thank us effusively, to congratulate both Lauren and me on our performances, to admire the production and the ideas expressed just evaporate into the “foul and pestilent congregation of vapours” that hovers, uninvited, close by, while the one mean-spirited response (or lack of) lights up like a ‘brave o’er-hanging firmament fretted with golden fire”.
What IS that? You’d think I’d be able to control it better, after all these years. I claim to be non-competitive yet I am unable to accept being anything less than the best there is. I know I’m not, by a long chalk, but I keep on hoping that somehow, some day, I will suddenly emerge as this great actor! Of course, I work at it. I don’t expect to get any better at it without actually putting in the hard yards, doing the training, exploring, experimenting, engaging with the craft, developing my skill set. The problem seems to be an old one. I get above myself. I don’t realise I’m doing it until I find myself being cut down to size.
So what does that mean – to get above myself? How is that even possible?
I think I am playing the good old Aussie game of hunting down the Tall Poppy. The rules are that nobody must stand out, or appear to be higher, smarter, richer, prettier, or anything-at-all-er more than anybody else. If they are, they must be cut down. I refuse to play this game against other people, but boy am I terrified of being perceived as being a Tall Poppy myself! Hence my real claim to fame, my actual expertise that qualifies me as a genuine Tall Poppy, is in the area of self-sabotage. I’m the Best!