The week before opening night for Annie was a stressful and nearly discouraging one for me. I had never before cared so much about getting the role I was playing just right! The part of Grace Farrell was my project. In the past, I had played characters like “Guenevere” in Camelot and “Louisa” in The Fantasticks, but these women all had some sort of emotional fluctuation or quirkiness about them with personalities an actor could really mess around with.
But Grace was none of these. She was a straightforward business woman from the thirties, a woman with infinite patience and positivity. A real lady type. Strong, but delicate and demure. And never aggressive. And the LAST thing I wanted to do was make her boring!
Being a redheaded, Scottish AND Irish girl myself, it was very difficult to suppress my aggressive nature. And so it became a fabulous challenge, being that Grace was a role I had never tackled before in my career.
Opening night was only a few days away and I still wasn’t happy with my character portrayal. I was doing all I could, channeling Olivia DeHavilland, practicing my patience at The Restaurant (my bill paying job). My lines and songs were down solid, so that wasn’t the issue.
The real issue was that I was beginning to think I was a terrible actress. I lost my appetite and stopped eating. My stomach felt like it would erupt at any given moment. I was clinging to my confidence by a thread. Every night after dress rehearsal I went home in tears. And then, of course, I would get angry because I felt so pathetic. Because I had never reacted this way before. Even on opening night, as my wig was being placed on my head, I burst into tears (which was really stupid considering all the heavy makeup I had on).
As I paced alone in my dressing room, listening to the ensemble sing over the monitors, I rehearsed my lines in “Grace-speak.” I knew I had about ten minutes left before my entrance, all the while there was a pressure behind my eyes threatening to make me cry again.
Stupid, I thought, you’re being so stupid!
And then I recalled what my friend Noelle, who was also in the show playing Lily St. Regis, said to me earlier: “Just have fun and don’t care so much about what other people think of you. Just enjoy it!”
And then I remembered what my mother said: “Remember, in the whole scheme of things, it’s just a show.”
Tactics at making your anxiety go away. The funny thing was, I knew this all along, but I had gotten so caught up with the largeness of the production of Annie and its star talents that I actually let my nerves take over. Nervousness!! Something that Rowaders don’t usually feel. I guess there really IS a first time for everything…
So my ten minutes were up and I stepped out on stage to greet my scene partner Sally Struthers. It was all over from there on out…my anxiety, that is.
Anyway, one day someone said to me, “You are so skinny!”
“That’s because I haven’t eaten in a week,” I laughed.
“Why?” she said.
“Because I was freaking out.”
And so is the life of an actor…