Monday, August 21, 2017

Going Normal

I could not help but connect with this book, as I loved Olive Kitteridge and had already read My Name is Lucy Barton. Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout, is another set of interconnected stories (like Olive Kitteridge)--though the New York Times calls it a novel (but the library calls it short stories)--and the book explores the characters back in Amgash, Illinois, Lucy Barton's hometown.

But I connected in a special way when I got to the story "Snow-Blind," with its Annie Appleby character, an actress.

"She had recently, though, had fantasies of 'going normal.' Having a house and a husband and children and a garden. The quietness of all that. But what would she do with all the feelings that streamed down her like small rivers? It was not the sound of applause Annie liked--in fact, she often barely heard it--it was the moment onstage when she knew she had left the world and fully joined another. Not unlike the feelings of ecstasy she'd had in the woods as a child."

I didn't know it was called "going normal," but I did this, and not just in fantasy, leaving the Chicago stage to marry, raise kids, and have a patch of garden in our backyard and then actually going to Normal, Illinois to let the kids grow all the way up near a set of grandparents. (Now they live and work in Chicago, and one is headed to new adventures in California very soon. I think we did OK.)

Now I am rehearsing a play again and revisiting the artistic dilemmas connected with that. I don't do it for the applause, that's for sure! (Sometimes I get sad or annoyed that people think all actors need applause and attention and ego stroking, but then I let that go, because I am older now and do not cling to my annoyances so much.) I do love entering the new world, the story of play! I love the immersion in the circumstances imagined by the playwright, even the ridiculous circumstances of The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde! We had a run-through last night, so we know we are not yet fully immersed, but we will be! That's what rehearsals are for.

And side by side with this imagined life is the ecstasy of my real life, my own backyard with its rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels and wrens and cardinals and occasional hawks, its cone flowers and balsam and Rose of Sharon, and its great night sky.

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