The Leading Lady

What do Rose Dewitt-Buktater, Bella Swan, Scarlett O’Hara, Vivian Ward, and Carrie Bradshaw all have in common? Aside from being smart, effortlessly beautiful, and charming, each of these women fall under the category of “the leading lady.” They’re the protagonists, the heroines, the heart and soul of their individual films. What would The vivian-leigh-394441_1280Titanic be without Rose and her iconic love story? Vivian Ward was the Pretty Woman. And Carrie Bradshaw, of course, was the glue that held the Sex and the City gals
together. Would Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda ever have discovered the Cosmopolitan if it wasn’t for her guidance? I think not. These leading ladies are the women who get the guy in the end. They’re the focal point of the movie posters and theatrical trailers. We’re highly invested in them and their stories.

Often we forget that behind every leading lady is a devoted sidekick. The best friend. She (or he) may not have as many wardrobe changes or lines of dialogue, but she is crucial to the story in an entirely different way. The best friend is the source of comic relief. She is reliable and a constant support system for the leading lady to fall back on when chaos ensues. Her unconditional support for the protagonist is what allows her to go on all of her protagonisty (yes, protagonisty) adventures. At times, the best friend can be self deprecating. She rarely ends up with her own happily ever after because she’s too busy sacrificing her own needs for those of others. However, she still manages to grace the movie screen with a smile any chance she gets.

As a little girl, I saw the world through lenses where people fit into one of two categories: the leading ladies or the best friends. I felt early on that I was best suited as a trusty girlfriends-338449_640sidekick since I had always identified closely with the supporting roles in my favorite fairytales. I was the jester of my royal family, always easing any tension with a joke or five. My sorority sisters deemed me the “Pepto Bismol” of our chapter, because I have an uncanny ability to neutralize any tense situation. I possess the gift of setting people at ease and well…care-taking. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the more I told myself that I wasn’t leading lady material, the more it became my reality. I was the best friend, never the girlfriend- the bridesmaid, never the bride. Needless wantless. I found myself in relationships with people where I did the giving and rarely reaped the benefits. I never knew things could be any different.

Recovery Through Performance opened my eyes to a whole new way of existing in the world. When I received my first draft of the script and peaked at the cast list, I had a visceral reaction. The play was called Twin Falls and I had been cast as one of the twins. Did that mean…no, no it couldn’t. Was I a lead role? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m aware that this play doesn’t have true designated lead roles. However, as I leafed through the script more thoroughly, I came to the realization that I was going to be on the stage for the majority of the play. I had a significant amount lines and great deal of the plot revolved around my character, Sylvia. When I came to this conclusion, I immediately felt apologetic. It was intolerable to sit with the fact that I was going to have to take up this much space and be a focal point for the audience. I wanted to leap back into my best friend comfort zone. I had gotten so used to dimming my light so that others could shine. I didn’t know what on earth (EARTH!? WE’RE ON EARTH?) the next couple of weeks would bring.

As the Recovery Through Performance process continued, I truly began to connect to Sylvia on her emotionally freeing and inspirational journey. I could feel myself becoming hedy-lamarr-111272_640more and more open to the idea of this leading lady way of life. Having the support of the other cast members as I navigated this unchartered territory was such a gift. They helped hold up the mirror for me and see things in myself that I never knew were there. I began to think, “What if I had actually been leading lady material all this time but was simply behaving like the best friend?” What if smart, assertive, lovable Sylvia has been inside of me all along?” That thought is equal parts terrifying and exciting. It means that the old narrative I’ve been living by for the past 24 years was never supposed to be mine. That somehow there was a mix up, and as a little girl, I got the idea that I wasn’t supposed to shine when really, I have enough light to fill an entire room. I guess this would mean that I could finally come out of the wings and make my way to center stage in my own life. I could take more risks, tell people how I really feel about them, find new things I’m passionate about, and allow myself to really be human.

-Cody F

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The Second Time Around

Seriously…. It feels like it’s been seven years, give or take, since we performed I Remember Justine.  But really, it’s only been eight months.  A lot has changed.  I have changed.  My recovery has changed.  Now, we are in the midst of rehearsing another play, Twin Falls, to give to the world our views of recovery and post-treatment transition into the “real world.”  And honestly, everything seems vastly different since I Remember Justine.  Everything except for the presence of group strength, courage, and colour-pencils-450621_640unbelievable creativity.   Let me fill you in on a little secret: take a handful of kind-hearted, strong adults that have been through so much their entire lives, put them into a room with an incredible drama therapist (some names that come to the top of my mind include Laura Wood and Dave Mowers for example), and what transpires is a powerhouse of near-tangible energy that becomes molded into a beautiful and vibrant collage of courage, strength, creativity, and wonder from the human mind.

I was asked my thoughts and feelings about the switch from Mateo, the main character in I Remember Justine, to more supportive roles in Twin Falls, while witnessing the growth of others in our current project.  I would be lying if I told you I didn’t feel at first a slight tinge of jealousy!  The cloud nine high I rode after the last performance was otherworldly!  But as Dave and Laura had expressed in our weekend intensive rehearsals, with progressing from the work in the first project, it was now time to allow others to take center stage.  My prior cast mate and I, both now participating in round two of Laura’s research, would become the parental figures or mentors to a new group of cast as they learn the process of Recovery Through Performance as well as their expressive capabilities on stage.  I realized I was now fulfilling a different capacity for the project.  As such, this was a different kind of joy I was feeling.

theater-105574_1280I am witnessing the growth, spirit, and strength of new and old friends during my second participation.  And honestly, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I’m now able to see other side of the equation with Twin Falls.  Before, I was constantly on my feet rehearsing lines, sculpting the character, creating vivid back stories, figuring out what emotions I’m trying to embody and the elicit from others.  Now, I get to observe other main characters as they rehearse and explore their boundaries with acting and expressing their roles.  Holding that energy and being there for support is extremely gratifying and  honoring.  And yes, it’s still hard as hell rehearsing the supportive roles I play!  But being able to witness the other group members acting extremely powerful and emotional roles is incredible.  I have already been laughing, grieving, smiling, surprised, and saddened just watching the rehearsals!  I can only imagine what I will be feeling during the next couple weeks going forward including the live performance.

Our pace has been very quick as we are working with a very tight schedule.  Rehearsing twice a week is actually better for me as I am able to fully immerse myself into the processangel-348951_640 without getting behind due to stagnation or losing the energy that was produced from the prior rehearsal.  Last time, we were together once a week up until the last few weeks prior to performance when the meetings became more regular.  My mind believes we just started rehearsals for Twin Falls but yet we go live in less than three weeks!  Even though the timeline for I Remember Justine was much longer, I remember it ending too soon because I just wanted to keep performing and seeing the close knit group weekly because outside of rehearsing the play, the project became extremely helpful and supportive to my recovery process.  I’m finding that with Twin Falls, the feeling of attachment is the same.  I do remember Laura expressing the parallel between the creation and then loss of I Remember Justine to the beginning and end to relationships in the “real world.”  Attachments are absolutely difficult to navigate for anyone.  Having to lose one that meant so much is painful beyond words.  I am learning that it’s imperative to focus and truly experience what is going on now and savor all that I can.

landscape-732367_640And yet, It is hard to focus on the here and now knowing that this will be the last time I work with Laura Wood on a full project.  I Remember Justine changed my life less than a year ago and now Twin Falls has been giving me new perspectives and growth in my current stage in recovery.  I’ve never been able to be a part of something so incredible, ground breaking, and inspiring as these two projects.  I will hold them forever in my heart and will never forget the impact everyone, cast and crew together, has had on my life.  It was hard to say goodbye last November.  It will be even harder to say goodbye this August.

-Rahul M