I've been Miss Carew for 21 days now. It happened when I bleached my hair and my students kind of freaked, and everyone decided it would be easier to accept an alter-ego than a blonde Mrs. Fife.
I'm not Miss Carew all the time. In fact, since Jekyll & Hyde opened, I've spent only 7% of each week wearing her clothing and saying her lines. The rest of the time, despite the new moniker, I really am Mrs. Fife, Mom, Sis. Fife, or Andrea as the situation warrants.
But similar to the way I often get sucked into the world of a fantasy novel that I can't quite escape until its completion, I frequently catch my daydreams off in 19th century London. I've woken up beside Kirk, confused at how Emma got into such a bed. And I find myself already reluctant to leave Emma behind when the show closes next week.
This has never happened to me before.
In fact, I've kind of prided myself on the truthful statement that I've never been sad on a closing night. I am fairly certain that in one week's time, I will no longer be able to brag.
I won't miss the cast. That sounds terrible, I know, but I've been doing this a really long time, and I know that I never do. I also know that the theater community is small, and Facebook makes it smaller, and we will all "play" again someday.
I won't miss the time commitment. The late nights. The ringlets and costumes. The mic checks. The declined social invitations. The corset. The carefully planned potty breaks.
But I will miss Emma.
Which is strange, because if I am being totally honest, she was not the part I'd hoped for. I love theater because I get the opportunity to be people I could never be in real life, and this time around (like every other female who auditioned), I'd hoped to play Lucy. Having played previous ensemble roles as a "saloon girl," I'd discovered that it's pretty fun to get to be promiscuous on stage. And in my mind, the "good girl" Emma just didn't seem like as much fun.
However, I knew I loved Emma songs, so when the opportunity to play Emma came, I happily accepted it. I had no idea how difficult it would be for me to identify with her character. And I had no idea that the harder I worked to try to portray her the way I thought she should be, the more I would come to like the fictional person I had become.
The main theme of Jekyll & Hyde is one of duality - the idea that every person has two sides, and that they only choose to show the side they want to show. This, an opening number suggested, is called "the facade." And this is something I could relate well to, especially when one considers my recent post (remember the zocchihedron). However, Emma is one of the few characters with no facade. With no agenda. With pure intent. While I wish I could say I'm just like Emma, I am not.
Not only is Emma remarkably straightforward, she is selflessly caring and dotes on those she loves. Again... wish I could say that is me. Nope. Not me. Because of this, I had a really hard time relating to the relationships between Emma and Henry Jekyll and between Emma and her father. But with lots of thought and trial, I finally found the tenderness in those relationships. And suddenly, like the way I've cared about my favorite characters in a trilogy, I found myself caring surprisingly deeply about Henry and Sir Danvers.
Someone recently asked me if it is emotional for me when Henry dies in my arms at "our" wedding. I explained that surprisingly that scene is not nearly as emotional for me as the one in Henry's lab where in her one moment of selfishness, or weakness, or strength, Emma decides to leave Henry on his own. I think it hurts me so much to walk out because that self-centered-ness is the moment to which I most naturally relate. And so I will miss Emma's more simple times with the love of her life. I will miss her easy, selfless devotion to both Henry and his work. I will miss being the calm in someone else's storm.
I will miss Emma's willingness to show her uncertainty. When she is worried, she says so. When she has nothing left to give, she says so. When she's wrong, she says so. I will just miss feeling so what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I've tried to learn that from Emma, but I don't think I've succeeded yet.
But Emma has changed me in other ways. I hug now. Naturally. And what's funny is that it seems to be awkward for everyone else, because most people know I'm not much of a hugger. I actually really hope I'm able to keep that ability when the show is over. It has been pretty nice to have a way of showing people that I care about them. I also think more. As I've tried to figure out how Emma should love Henry, I've also had some pretty great opportunities to think about how Andrea could love Kirk better. I hope that stays, too.
Probably one of Emma's best qualities is that she knows the story really isn't about her. She's there to help both the fictional characters and the audience like Henry. She's there to provide a contrast to Lucy. She's there to help others reach their potential. Oh, how I could stand to learn that from Emma! I'm going to miss being a contributing factor to something so much bigger than myself. Sure, the reviewers keep saying it is a Halloween show. But I know better. It is the story of good and evil. A story of agency. A story of friendship and sacrifice. A story in which I am so grateful to get to play a part. I hope I can remember that. I hope that as Andrea I can work toward being that grateful to play each role in my life.
The change away from Miss Carew will be gradual. I will put away her costumes. I'll probably put at least some brown back in my hair. Henry and Sir Danvers will be replaced by Eric and Matt. My students will go back to calling me Mrs. Fife. And Emma will fade away into my memory.
But I'll keep her earrings. I'll wear her boots to the Dickens Festival. Her wedding flowers will probably sneak their way into a hairdo or two. And hopefully, a part of her goodness will continue to change me until I can be all the things I admire in her.
I know she's total fiction. She's not even in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel. She's not real. But I will miss Miss Carew.
2 months ago