Kraig Swartz here. I am the actor who will be playing the 37 characters in I AM MY OWN WIFE. This is my very first attempt at Blogging, so thanks for your understanding.
I arrived in Naples about twelve days ago for my first rehearsal, with high hopes, high expectations and high anxiety.
High hopes because I am a tremendous fan of this extraordinary play, a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner!
High expectations because with such a celebrated and well-written piece, I realized that I had to bring my A game if I wanted to do it justice.
And high anxiety? Well gosh, where to start? The prospect of the whole thing TERRIFIED me. I had done one-man shows in the past, but none remotely as challenging as this one. And despite that fact that I have been in this business for…well, decades, the whole task seemed so….Herculean. I mean, COME ON! A one man show with 38 characters? A delicate balance of drama, pathos and comedy? Over two dozen foreign accents and dialects? Speaking German? Wearing a skirt? And on and on. Now of course, when something scares you, that’s usually a good indicator that you HAVE TO do it. For actors, these challenges help you grow and make you a better, stronger performer. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still occasionally wake up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic, screaming, “HEEEEELP!!!” Someone recently asked me if I ever felt frightened, being onstage, alone. I replied, “Only when I think about it.”
I’ve prepped harder for this play that I ever have for any other job in my long acting career. This preparation included several months of memorization, in coffee shops, before bed, in dentist’s office waiting rooms, on subway rides and every other spare minute I could find. I worked with a German professor on both my German language skills (I had none) as well as my German accent. I studied the walks and bodies of strangers on the street, elderly women, 19 year old servicemen, people with broken legs on crutches, college coeds, hookers, the homeless, buttoned down politicians. I would need to replicate all of these (and many more) over my two hours onstage. In order to switch instantly, seamlessly and effortlessly between all these people, it requires a kind of speed that only comes with the confidence achieved from looong hours of hard work. And I knew we had only three weeks of rehearsal. Now, three weeks of rehearsal is a perfectly decent amount of time. That is, for a normal, traditional play with extra cast members to share the workload, (in fact, nowadays, budgets being what they are, many theaters give you significantly LESS time than three weeks.) But there is NOTHING normal or traditional about I AM MY OWN WIFE. I needed to arrive ready for what I knew would be a wild ride.
And so far, a wild ride it has been!
I’ll keep you posted!