Working on BECKY’s NEW CAR by Steven Dietz

before classBECKY

Marilyn suggested I work on the character of “Becky” from the play BECKY’s NEW CAR and gave me the play to read.  It’s a great and funny ride that was first commissioned by ACT Theatre in Seattle in 2010.  The character of Becky is a few years my senior, but the part is perfect for me.  Becky is a pleaser, sunny and upbeat, and speaks to the audience as she tries to navigate her family and job, spaces that become increasingly difficult once she begins to lie about who she is and what she spends her days doing.  It’s a delicious ride that starts with what is definitely now one of my favorite monologue pieces (next to “Rachel” in RECKLESS, another piece Marilyn had me tackle).  

I’ve done Becky’s 5 page monologue three times in class — once on-book, once total improv (my favorite mode), and once memorized using some basic props.  This past week Victor and I rehearsed the scene in the dealership where Becky meets Walter Flood, the eccentric millionaire and recent widower who mistakes Becky for a widow.  We put the scene up on Monday and it went well — we are so comfortable on stage together having worked on REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT and it felt so good to be off-book, running it and then having Marilyn give us pieces of direction and then running it again.  She told me I could play this role in any regional theatre and compared me to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (love her!!!) and we talked about my choices…I told her how I can hear the comedy in the lines and how it’s hard not to go for a beat or a moment and she said that’s part of my gift as a comedienne, and not to worry about feeling those instincts, but to work towards holding onto my given choice tenaciously and staying with it as something to hold onto.  

It sounds abstract to put into words but I LOVE the way she directs; she really sees me and is so loving and honest that you end up feeling so free to be real.  She asks these tiny questions, these small little fluttering queries that enter my head and heart.  Questions like:  “what are you doing?”  Which seems general but when Marilyn asks them, they open doors.  She knows just where to take a scene from, when a moment is shifting and she wants you to be more fully engaged.  She often talks about not wanting actors to have to recharge or reboot during any given scene, to stay with a choice that can shift and arc but one that will keep you so focused on the other person and also keep you vital and alive on stage.  It’s been over a year in her class and I’m so grateful to have rediscovered what I knew as an adolescent acting in plays.  

There is nothing like being on stage.  The danger of it, the freedom of it.  Part of what I think I fell in love with and still love is how justified you can be up there.  No apologies.  No explanations needed for the world about who you are and what you believe.  You have someone else’s life to inhabit with what you know yourself about what life can do and how it can feel.  It’s like some kind of invisible cloak you get to put on, that imaginary ‘what if,’ that protects you from the outside world and let’s your truth shine.  It’s like a magic carpet of sorts.  If you allow yourself to stand on it, to plant your feet on it, it will transport you and others with you.

Ahhhh, yes

…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms
or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers,
that could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the question now.
Perhaps then, some day far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)

DESIDERATA

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.