Tapping the Vulnerability in 'Life Sucks.'

by Life Sucks. cast member Marcella Kearns (Pickles)

Thursday night rambling.

My fingers hurt.

My friend Matt said they would. (You saw Matt Daniels last in Fun Home here at Forward.)

I’m learning how to play a stringed instrument for the first time. I wish I could download that skill into my brain like they do in The Matrix; that’d be convenient, achieving instantaneous mastery; but I don’t mind it, really. My fingers hurt, but it’s wicked fun doing it the hard way.

There’s a learning curve on every rehearsal process, but this one feels unique to me, deeply personal. Not just because of the technical skill-building, though. Mostly because of the people in the room and how I’m getting to take in their stories.

Three days into rehearsal, director Jen Gray voiced her awe at the way in which each cast coming in to craft a play at Forward opens up so quickly to one another—sharing personal stories which both inform the work of the play and serve to bind the collective together as a team for the process. Just over the last few days, I’ve heard stories hilarious, heartbreaking, even terrifying—connections actors have made to the experience of characters in Life Sucks. It’s a rare gift. Tapping the vulnerability necessary to walking in another’s shoes believably for an audience requires a care of one another not unlike a team of climbers roped in together to summit a peak. Entering the process also requires a foundation of trust in oneself and belief in others’ skill and goodwill, of course. But the stories: priceless in establishing that care.

Here’s why, even beyond what some may call cast bonding or what may help us more finely mine the script: we all carry things we generally don’t talk about for one reason or another. When someone talks, whether actor around a rehearsal hall table or character in the story, one can count on that contribution having significance to the speaker. We simply don’t have time to waste. The time, and the words, count. Even if a character’s words are a ramble, there’s some truth the heart is trying to speak.

I love listening. I will hold those gifts of story gently. That’s a promise I can make to the other climbers.