Just Pretend


I have a lot of crazy dreams and those of you who know me are used to my sentences that begin, “Last night, I dreampt…”.  I write these things down just in case there might be a hidden message, something I’ve forgotten was there, a clue about who I am that I’m hiding from myself.  Sometimes, there is.

Last night, I dreampt I was in a movie with Molly Ringwald, Martha Plimpton, Meryl Streep, Robert Downy Jr.,  Johnny Depp, James Spader and John Malkovich.  Great cast, if I do say so myself.  I have no recollection of what it was about, but I had a small part in which I ran out into the street in my pajamas to dance in the rain.  It was ridiculous but it felt amazing.

I’m sure it happened because, last night, in my real life, I had to walk a part in play I’m stage managing.  It was the third time I’ve done that in the last 2 weeks. Normally, I hate it and just read the script without engaging, but last month that all changed.  While doing a timed contest play at OCTAFest, I experienced the absolute worst case of stage fright I’ve ever had.  It lasted 3 days, but somehow, I managed to leave it there.  Now, with the fear gone, I’m suddenly free to learn about the process of creating a character onstage.  I need that.  As a writer, characterization has always been the hardest part for me.  I’m full of stories, but I’m not so good with people.

On stage during the scene last night, I really tried to see the cast members as the characters they played.  I watched them from a place outside myself, reacting to me as the character I was playing as I struggled with how to say my lines, where to move when, who to look at and with what expression.  It was surreal, uncomfortable.  Hard.  They seemed so good at it, as of they’d never lost the child-like ability to pretend.

I did, and thanks to that dream I had last night, I was driven to remember the day it happened.

I was 12.  The neighborhood kids and I were in the Connecticut woods near our homes. It was early spring, in the afternoon.  I was wearing a yellow windbreaker, the one I always got in trouble for getting dirty. We’d built our own play town out of brush and fallen logs, rocks, whatever we could collect and whatever our moms wouldn’t miss from kitchens and garages, our rooms. We made up stories, we acted them out.  It was bliss. That day, I was right in the middle of mixing up some kind of “stew” from wood fungus, leaves and berries when it hit me.  The premise of our story evaporated right before my eyes, and suddenly it was all hollow, meaningless, even stupid.  I didn’t know what to do. I went home full of a strange new heaviness, as if I’d grown up all at once in a sudden whirlwind of consciousness.   The joy of playing pretend had always been there for me when I needed to escape.  I’d taken it for granted and in one afternoon it was gone.  I tried again and again, but nothing was the same after that day.

I realize I’ve been trying to make it be ever since.

I’ve had nights at the theater when I was tired, or had something upsetting on my mind, that I wondered what kind of madness had driven me to be there when I could be safely ensconced in my recliner with a drink in my hand, doing my best to ignore the world and the person I’d become in it.  Now I know it ‘s because that child I used to be is still alive and waiting in the wings for the day I finally remember how to play pretend.


~ by loretta8 on August 20, 2012.

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