Actor Brain vs. Producer Brain

Midsummer

It’s proven much more difficult than I’d imagined to gather my thoughts and convert them to blog form, while in the thick of a rehearsal process. Every step has felt deeply personal – too personal to openly discuss in the format that I had so far established. With that said, let me attempt to share some musings, some reflections as our final dress rehearsal for The Fools & Kings Project’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream approaches tonight.

Producer/Actor is not like Producer/Director. The other two full-length shows that I’ve produced before felt very, very different than this one. (Well, I didn’t technically produce The Importance of Being Earnest, but I don’t think my producer would begrudge me credit for my input and work on the production process.) As the director of Earnest and assistant director for Sunday on the Rocks, I found it intuitive to focus on things like design, rehearsal space, marketing, creating a program, etc. All of those logistics were on my mind very naturally. Director Brain meshes nicely with Producer Brain.

If you’re an actor, you’re familiar with Actor Brain. It might not be something you’ve often considered, because, well, it’s your brain. It’s always there. But it’s that glorious mindset you enter when you have a new role to tackle, a character to explore. You get excited about your physicality, your voice, motivations. All of those marvelous details that will flesh out this person to whom you’ll transform. It’s emotional and glorious and addictive.

Actor Brain has virtually nothing to do with Producer Brain. Imagine that an actor is a puzzle piece. That Puzzle Piece is essential, beautiful, and important. The puzzle would be incomplete without that particular Piece, with its specific shape and size, and that spot where the Piece fits so perfectly. But the Piece’s job is to concentrate on clicking in with the pieces next to it, filling out those ridges and crannies. The Piece cannot easily see the 999 other pieces that are needed to transform the puzzle into a full picture. It doesn’t usually have to. Neither does an actor, which is normally fine, and even good.

But a producer needs to see the complete picture. Playing Hermia has been on my list of goals since I was handed the part in acting class for scene work when I was 16 years old, and I don’t regret it at all. Still, it has been difficult to reconcile the part of me that wants to lose myself in my character and relationships, to be the solitary Piece, with the part of me that wants to build the other parts of the puzzle. This is why Vanessa and I hired people to help us. Janie has been busying herself as both Director and Costume Designer with an incredible amount of work in creating the world of the play. Erica, our Stage Manager has been wonderful as a point of contact for all, finding props, and otherwise making sure that stuff gets done.

Still, there are things left that fall decidedly on the Producer’s To-Do List. Vanessa and I anticipated many of these tasks; some, on the other hand, we did not expect. A good half of our Producer work are things we *did* anticipate, but had no idea how much damn trouble they’d cause.

Lord, what fools these mortals be.

Vanessa and I are hard workers, to say the least. We complete the things we set out to do, no matter what. We aim to create a professional environment that is still a pleasure for our cast and crew to work in. So you’d better believe that anything and everything that has fallen short of our original intentions is eating away at us. Like Puck and Oberon, Vanessa and I have watched as our best-laid plans played out differently than we had devised.

Midsummer is teaching me to roll with the punches, to adapt quickly. If I am acting and producing at the same time, I now know that I need to be ten steps ahead of myself instead of five. Will there still be surprises? Of course. There will always be something. But this process has armed me with more than I’m able to share: experience. Next time, I’ll be an entire show’s worth wiser than I was two months ago.

It’s all worth it, though.  Don’t get that twisted. Because tonight, and over the next week and a half, blue-wigged fairies frolic through the woods, innocent lovers steal away from Athens, hard-handed workmen transform to actors (and asses), and a pair of ethereal mischief-makers meddle with magic. Truly, it is magical to watch. Join us.

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