< Snow go
Mae felt his eyes on her, endless minutes of checking her form. Up and down. He rubbed his chin, his eyebrows arched. His fingers twiddled with his nails and skin.
His voice erupted – finally – eyes boring into hers from his seat in the last row of the small studio theater. “You have to let go.”
“I do let go.” Mae felt lost on stage, forcing herself to do something she once used to love. She couldn't escape his stare, relentless eyes - her initial euphoria long gone.
“You're tense.” Luca got up, walked down on stage, grabbed her shoulders and gave her a good shaking. “Through and through.”
Mae relaxed her shoulders from his touch as she squirmed free of his hands, rolled her head. Looked for her balance. She felt uncomfortable in her skin - sensitive, brittle. His criticism suffocated her voice. She couldn't trust her training anymore. “I'm playing a part,” she said.
“Stiff like this, you’re not.” Luca beckoned a stage-hand to throw him a ball.“Loosen up,” he said, and passed it on to Mae.
Mae caught the ball and hesitated, holding it too long. Barely containing his impatience, Luca made a sign to throw it back. Back and forth, the ball flew. What a waste of time: Mae's muscles stiffened and she tried hard not to roll her eyes.
“Thing is, you're German. You cannot help being controlled. But you're here to act. So you have to switch it off, your identity. That voice in your head.”
“This is Tennessee Williams.” Mae dropped the ball. “How relaxed do you want me to be?”
“You gotta be Southern to the bones.” Luca bent down to pick the ball up and threw it back at Mae. “Alma may be odd, but she's not German.”
Mae raised her eyebrows and ignored the game Luca kept playing with her.
“Germans are strict. We need prudish.” Luca challenged her poise, but Mae interrupted him.
“I didn't play her strict. I made her offish. Which is what you wanted!”
“You're being pedantic.” Luca nodded. “Another German thing.”
“Any more insults you wanna throw my way?”
“It's not an insult, Mae. It's a fact. You're reserved.” Luca kept whacking her ego – his voice like a boxing glove on a punching bag, looking for a soft spot to make her twirl in the air.
“I am for Alma!” Mae took a deep breath. It was hard for her not to start a fight with him. Her director. A man who could taint her career, crush her ambitions. Haunt her for more than this Poughkeepsie summer stock run.
“And that's where you're wrong. It's in your nature. So I'm telling you, learn to let go.”
“Alma is a preacher's daughter. She's withdrawn, solitary. Almost frail. She's only opening up by the end of the play!” Mae threw her hands in the air, something she always did when she was angry.
“So you read the play. Good!” Luca closed the gap between them and leaned in for a kiss.
Slap! Mae's hand was faster than his lips.
“Now that's a start!” Luca wiped his cheek. “Use that.” He left the stage and signed the stage-hand to change the lights, returning to his last row seat. There he sat, elevated, overseeing the room like a king-in-waiting on his father's throne.
Mae stood center stage, agitated, shoulders shaking. Goosebumps on her arms and legs. Cheeks fully blushed. Her focus gone.
“Remember what I told you,” Luca shouted from his director's chair. “You showed me flighty, sensitive, ardent. What I want is layers.”
“Like?” Mae was trying to regain control but found herself blocked with her lines. Which scene? What line? It was unlike her to be jittery like this.
Luca waved his hand. “Show me and I'll know.”
Mae closed her eyes and inhaled, preparing to let go. Working with him had become a pain, like Mrs Winemiller was to Alma. Mae reflected on the variety of emotions he had triggered in her, ran through them in her head. Rage, discomfort, solitude.
“Whenever you're ready!” Luca's voice cut through the silence.
Mae held her hand up high in the air. She was done with him breaking her concentration.
Two days of rehearsals left to go. Mae sighed and felt the humid air sticky on her skin. Emotions soaked up, she cleared her throat. Deep breaths, Mae inhaled. And Alma opened her eyes.
published 5 August 2011