A 24-character solo show. A project of a lifetime. And I go up in two days.
I spent the first few weeks of my immense preparation gathering as much information about South Africa and its era of apartheid. I watched over twenty movies and documentaries on the topic; interviewed black and white South Africans, either here in New York City or over Skype with people residing in South Africa; I read three memoirs and I attended an honors class at Hunter College on apartheid taught by South African professor Larry Shore, who assisted me with my historical and political research.
As the groundwork for my performance materialized, and my rehearsals with Barbara Rubin progressed, it really hit me how incredibly technical this piece was.
I have to play 24 characters without the support of a set, costumes, props or fellow actors. The only way to truly distinguish between characters, is by how I communicate with my voice and body, text is secondary. After getting off book and completing my blocking, the remainder of my rehearsal work was made up of vocal and physical work. The more risks I took vocally and physically, the easier it became for me to take the huge emotional risks that are required by the play. I have quickly come to learn that if I lose a character’s voice and/ or physique, I will lose the character all together. My voice and my body are what ground me, what put me in the moment and make me fully aware of my imaginative surroundings and stimulate my sensory work.
The Syringa Tree has been one of the most valuable and humbling experiences of my life, not only because of what its content taught me about humanity and human struggle, but also what the play has taught me about myself and acting. Never before have I felt so challenged, so exhausted and so elated at the same time. This play has made me want to further explore the expansiveness of my voice and body, and, as a result, the unknown emotional and psychological qualities that can surface from them while doing character work.