|Lauren Thomas and Harrison Brian|
I am sitting backstage, waiting patiently for my entrance, and I figured since I have over 40 minutes before my first scene, that I’d have enough time to write this blog entry, which hopefully will give people a little glimpse into my rehearsal process with The Sussman Variations.
I am a Junior Acting Major at Boston University, and part of our program includes a guaranteed casting policy, but what's not guaranteed is a professional opportunity such as this. So immediately, stepping into an Equity theatre, with professional actors, felt like a blessing. A gift from the theatre gods. I read the script before my audition, and the role of Todd, a young, care-free, passionate artist, jumped out of the pages and called for me. He doesn't have much stage time, and he doesn't add much to the main character's arc, but he has one beautifully written scene where he shares a piece of his soul, and some of his weed, with Miranda, a wonderfully kind girl he literally just met. This ten-minute scene was a pleasure to perform – and it was perhaps the most effortless "acting" I've ever done. Jeff and Richard would comment on the playfulness of the scene and encourage me to continue having more and more fun with it (which, of course, I did!).
Then, last week, I received some disappointing news. The play was running a little longer than the creative team would have liked – and so, as is the case for most new play productions, extensive cuts needed to be made. I was taken over to the side the next day, where Jeff, apologetically, informed me that my beloved scene, though fun to watch, needed to be cut for dramaturgical reasons – for the sake of the show. And just like that, 80% of my lines were gone, and I knew no one would get to see that wonderfully written scene I had worked so hard on.
This is when The Sussman Variations turned from an awesome opportunity – to a life-changing lesson on maturity. As a playwright myself, I completely agreed with Jeff's decision to remove the scene. It's a fun scene, sure – but it didn't quite push the plot forward. At the same time, I couldn't help but feel that maybe there was something I could have done better to keep the scene. But as I spoke to more and more people about the experience, it occurred to me that I was not a part of the problem – but that I was a part of the solution. Cutting the scene helps the play. And as a member of the ensemble, it is my job to do just that. Help the play.
Instead of getting upset about the situation, it was an opportunity for me to embrace the newness of it; look at it as it is, and not what it could have been. It forced me to re-look at my other lines, and ask: How can I include what I loved about the other scene in the text I still have? How can I remain open to changes and SAY YES to whatever comes my way? How have I changed because of this?
Since “the cut,” I feel as if I’ve ironically gained more than I’ve lost. My understanding of this type of professional environment has grown ten-fold, my ability to embrace challenges instead of folding before them has surprised me, my peers, and my teachers, I’ve learned to accept the things I can not change, and I’ve gained a new ownership over my maturity.
And so, I must accredit this new-found maturity with the energy that’s been around me since I first entered the theatre on Day One. The people a part of this process, led by Jeff's efficiency and sense of humor, have made me feel so a part of this show, and this process, that every second I am offstage, I feel that I am actually onstage with 'em. A rare feeling for someone with not many lines, and a rare gift I was given in this quaint Boston theatre. A gift I will share and carry with me for the rest of my professional life. “To the Sussmans! A nearly happy family!”
Harrison Brian, actor
The Sussman Variations