I have this problem where characters I am working on for a show or film seep into my everyday life. It's not really too terrible when I'm playing, say, the girl next door, and when I played the martyred peace activist, I'm pretty sure I became a saintly person for a while, but it can occasionally be problematic. Like the time I played Prostitute #2 in Time of Your Life and the Courtesan in Comedy of Errors in succession - you can only imagine what a floozy I became (see below)!
See?!!!! Okay, just kidding, that last pic is from a Wig Party...
But seriously though, writers tend to create characters who are in the midst of existential crisis, not contented, balanced, healthy people. It's more interesting, it moves the action forward, it creates great dramatic tension and further develops themes the writer is interested in. I love these interesting characters on paper, and acting work on them can be sooo much fun, but when I'm at a dinner party attempting to socialize normally and I become inexplicably fixated on a piece of tissue paper and all of the different prop applications I can utilize it for in the context of my current character, I get a little embarrassed. Perhaps I am blaming my own personal neuroses on my artistic persuits, but I think it's something more.
This latest show is no exception. Arlene, my character in Beauty-Fiction (see above), is described as a "hip young hair & nail stylist" by the playwright (Helena Weltman), and the director (Dano Cerny) asked for a hint of Valley Girl + Mad Hatter, so I took those notes, the hints from the text, some inspiration from Jerri Blank (below), Rainbow Brite, and random weirdos I found online, and went to town.
The text itself is reminiscent of Beckett (although Helena swears it was not her intention) in its' absurdity, with me and my delightful acting partner Barbara Cole (aka Justine) jumping from point A to D to B and Z then back to K again all during the course of a routine hair appointment. It's certainly a challenge connecting all of the dots and creating a cohesive character from all of the seemingly randomness. Some moments could only be tackled by diving in head-first with 150% wild&crazy-most-hyper-kat-Ever-energy, and some I am still making sense of weeks into the run, so my brain is always subconsciously looking for clues as to what my character is up to. Hence the retreat to randomness I experience in my everyday life!
This phenomenon is one of the best parts about being a performance artist, although I do worry about the repercussions. To be sensitive to the nuances life and to able to see them as fodder for creativity is a joy and hard-earned (*cough* Meisner *cough*) trait for an artist. But what if playing a mentally ill character opens up some sort of repressed illness of my own? Or what if something I am playing with in the rehearsal process doesn't lift when the run is done? What if, in the process of playing with an idea or movement or noise or whatever, I alienate all of the nice new friends I have made in Los Angeles?!?!
Well, I suppose there are worse things that could happen. My face could get stuck looking like this ^, or I could have no hot water in my apartment (oh wait...)