Congratulations, you just got cast in your dream role. No, it’s not Blanche DuBois. It’s Stella DuBois, Blanche’s less talked about sister, but a seriously amazing role in Streetcar Named Desire. I’m getting jealous just writing this for you right now.
You can’t wait to dive into the role of Stella, and you can’t wait to meet the big hunk-of-burning-love playing Stanley. I mean, it’s vital that you and this guy possess this animalistic passion for each other — you absolutely cannot manufacture this shit — you need him to love you — devour you — to see you as the ultimate woman. It’s getting hot in here.
Before your first read-through, you are already imagining what rehearsals with “Stanley” will be like. You realize you are putting a lot of pressure on this actor you don’t even know yet, but who cares? It’s fun.
You go to your first rehearsal. Good news, Stanley is unimaginably hot. So good looking you find yourself blushing, giggling and fumbling your lines. It’s not your fault he keeps gazing at you with these big, intense eyes that twinkle every time you make one of your hilarious jokes.
“This is going to be amazing,” you say to yourself, “I don’t have to work to be attracted to this actor. I’m genuinely attracted to him and clearly he thinks I’m hot stuff too! I feel like half of my homework is already done! No manufacturing any emotions here! Our chemistry is going to be through the roof!”
Rehearsal ends. “Stanley” scoots out of the theatre just ahead of you. You’re following him out of the theatre, not stalking, following. Suddenly “Stanley” runs into the arms of someone else. A man. They share a passionate kiss and then continue on down the street, arm in arm.
And just like that, everything changes. Your “Stanley” is gay.
Disappointment sets in first. No sugar coating that. Maybe you even feel a touch of anger. “How could I let myself think this was going to be easy!” And then you feel panic.
And now the real work can begin.
The question is this. How do you truthfully live under these circumstances? Playing to your own intelligence level, what would it take for you, as a straight woman, to marry a gay man?
As an actor, you cannot pretend your “Stanley” is straight. Your brain will never believe it to be true. But what you can do is look at this man, this actor, and decide what it is that you love about him as a human. What is it about this person that you connect with? What do you find attractive, in real life, about this man? And ultimately, what would it take for you to marry someone that may never desire you?
First, start with the fact that he makes you feel attractive. You love the way he laughs at your jokes. You feel like no one else is in the room when he looks at you and smiles. You decide this is why you would marry him: he makes you feel special.
Next, define your Kernel of Truth. I’ll now use myself as an example. My Kernel of Truth is that I have a fear of losing my looks. This hits me hard in the stomach and that’s how you know it’s good. Off of this feeling, this little piece of myself, I can begin to craft an honest relationship with “Stanley.”
Every time I am onstage, I remember why I married him, and my Kernel of Truth. I watch every piece of Stanley’s behavior. Every tiny gesture or glance now carries more weight. I find myself fighting harder and harder to win his affections. My head is screaming. I feel devastated. Desperate.
And then suddenly, “Stanley” looks at me and smiles warmly. And I notice a flicker where his eyes drop down to my chest. I feel my face getting hot and my palms sweating. In this moment, he is attracted to me, and I’m having a genuine reaction to his attraction. Suddenly it no longer matters that I know in real life that he likes men, because in that moment we shared a real moment between two people. That moment was fueled by two things:
How I feel about him in real life.
My Kernel of Truth
Every tiny piece of behavior “Stanley” gives me is information that fuels me, as a real person, in real life, because I am using my real self onstage. I’m not playing a role. I am me, under these imagined circumstances. Every moment onstage can be rich, if I’m paying attention to my partner’s behavior.
I acknowledge and accept what I know about my acting partner. I don’t deny the facts. I embrace them. I navigate them to make them work for me. And I bring a little piece of myself onto the stage. Stella is not a “character” on the page. She is me.
And I just totally stole your dream role.