Christopher Aruffo, MFA, MBA, MSc, PhD

Acting Process 5:  Descriptions and Reflections

Naturally, there were a number of things I didn't have the time to write about during rehearsals.

March 12 - Phys ed

My physicalization of Gary was not complete.  Although I had imagined how I would effect a fuller transformation, I settled for three specific choices which I believed would have the greatest effect on my appearance.

The first choice I made was the leading center.  The "Center", I understand, was first described by Michael Chekhov as the point in the body from which all movement tends to originate.  I tend to use the phrase leading center because that's how I was introduced to the concept; that you make the choice and let your body follow.  There is no single physical choice you can make that has a more drastic effect than selecting a leading center; no matter how truncated my process.  I always select a leading center for each of my characters, but in this case I decided I was going to use it slightly differently.  Normally I make the leading center very blatant, letting it lead me to the point of my thrusting forward that specific body part as I move or respond.  This time, I believed that the most important part of Gary's self was his heart, his geographic center, but I didn't want to walk around with my chest stuck out.  So rather than have my chest "lead" in the literal sense, either being pushed along by the rest of the body or dragging the body behind it, I decided that all my movements should start there and then ripple outward.

All my gestures and responses would therefore begin from the core, with a movement of the torso.  If the movement was involved and impassioned enough, the energy would spread into the arms and hands (or legs) to enhance the gesture.  But no gesture would start distally, and until my involvement was extreme enough to warrant the activation of my extremities they would remain perfectly comfortable resting on my lap or at my sides.  I mostly succeeded in maintaining this usage; in the fourth monologue I had a tendency to slip and allow my arms and hands to gesture by themselves, and these gestures felt strangely disconnected when they appeared.

The second choice I made was how I would stand.  In one of the matinee rehearsals, as the principal characters were standing in their final positions, I happened to notice that all of them were standing in totally neutral poses.  As far as I know, nobody in real life will stand neutrally, and since I would be standing at various times I wanted to make sure that how I stood revealed something about my character.  I decided that I would define my stance by placing one foot slightly forward and on a diagonal slant, and letting my body follow as though I were stepping up on a rock or a clump of dirt.  I imagined it as though I were climbing a hill, so that at the beginning of the arc I could use that stance somewhat defiantly (I'm going to take this step up despite my fear) and at the end I could use it triumphantly (I have made it to the top).

The third choice was to keep my fingers together.  In real life, probably because I type so much, my gestures tend to be not only distal but highly articulated.  That is, each of my fingers has individual function and expression.  My roommate's husband is a tree surgeon, and I've noticed that he rarely uses his fingers individually.  He'll use his entire fist for tasks which require only one or two fingers, and he will hold a fork or a toothbrush as he would a saw or a hammer handle.  I reasoned that as a planter, Gary's habit would probably be to use his hands the same way.  It was very difficult to break my own habit of single-finger gesturing, especially for pointing at things, until at one rehearsal I found a short length of wire.  I placed the wire along the length of my index finger, between it and the middle finger, and held it there by pressing my fingers together.  I proceeded through the entire rehearsal keeping that wire in place, knowing that if I separated my fingers the wire would fall.  I immediately began to discover how I could use my hands as a unit instead of my fingers, and I only kept the wire for one more rehearsal before I felt confident in using my hands in this new way.  This habitual use became comfortable enough that I don't believe I dropped it at any point during the performances.

I didn't follow through on two physical explorations which would have completed the transformation.  I thought I might do some yard work, during which I would pay attention to which muscles were being used and which muscle groups tended to coordinate with each other in the activity; the work gloves are still sitting in the back seat of my car.  I also knew it would be helpful to make decisions about what Gary's preferred movement states are as described by Laban movement analysis, but didn't take the time to let my body live within the theoretical choices that I imagined.  In a way, the three choices I made dictated much of the physical expression, but it would have been helpful to choose modes which were clearly a different combination than those I use as myself in real life (my movements tend to be "quick", "light", "direct", and "free", the opposite of which is "sustained", "strong", "indirect", and "bound").

My cosmetic appearance did help me.  In this smaller space, we were discouraged from wearing makeup, but since the lighting was often harsh I did some subtle highlights, shadows, and colors just to make sure that my ability to show expression would not be washed out.  I had let my facial hair grow for about five weeks, and by performance time there was enough real hair that I could spend ten minutes with an eyebrow pencil and make it look like I had an actual beard and moustache.  I hadn't cut my hair since December, so it was nearly shoulder length, and I used gobs of hair gel to slick it back.  My hair is so fine that, when I slick it back, it covers my head as poorly as a comb-over, and I figured that stage lighting would shine past the hair to my scalp and make me look practically bald.  According to my family members, this is exactly what happened, so that not only did I appear to be the actual age of the character (which they know I am not), but the pseudo-baldness and the hair length made me look like the aging hippie Gary is meant to be.

So, physically, I managed to create a Gary that was passably different from myself.  It wasn't a complete transformation, but it was enough to make visibly clear that this was not me.

March 15 - Chain of being

I think energy should always come from the performance.  I can't seem to think of an example where it would be necessary to force energy into your work.  With my students, I've been taking pains to demonstrate that energy is always easily accessible either by tapping into your fellow actors' impulses or, when you're alone, by heightening the importance of your objective; because you will always have one or the other (and ideally both), then I don't think it should ever be necessary for an actor to "work hard" to achieve a good energy level for a satisfactory performance.  Although I would expect an actor to leave the stage feeling wiped out, this wouldn't be because he'd poured out all his energy; rather, his body would be worn out from hyperstimulation.  I suppose if you looked at it in real-life terms, it would be the difference between moving heavy boxes for half an hour versus playing a game of racquetball-- you can read into that metaphor as deeply as you like, and what you come up with will very probably be accurate.

I'm glad to have gained the awareness of looking for the direction of energy flow.  I can use this for myself and for my students.  As I watch or perform a scene I can ask, is the actor forcing energy out of their body or are they drawing it out of the scene?  I think the former is to be studiously avoided, because the more you force your own energy the more you cut yourself off from the energies already present.  It's a simple piece of logic with a fundamental premise-- if acting is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances, then your performance should be a direct result of those circumstances.  If the circumstances warrant high energy, high energy will occur (as in a racquetball game).  If the circumstances are lacking, then the energy level depends entirely on the actor's effort (as in moving boxes).  Although it is possible for an actor to be physically strong enough to deliver a consistent level of energy through sheer effort, it is neither necessary nor desirable to do so, as it simultaneously exhausts the actor and destroys the reality of his performance.

I'm also delighted to have achieved what I was hoping to gain from this performance:  a mechanical understanding of monologues.  The entire time I've been at this school, I've been refining my mechanical understanding of dialogue by working with my students, but I never had an opportunity to develop my monologue work.  When I arrived here, I had thought that the answer was to be found in analyzing pauses, but it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that such an approach was far too burdensome and unnatural; pause-by-pause analysis helps principally as diagnosis, not prescription.  Coming into The Exonerated, I had a collection of concepts that I knew were applicable to monologues, but my actual approach was still imprecise-- basically I'd just make two or three broad decisions (idea, objective, and sometimes arc) and let it fly.  As I refined my monologues for this show, I paid careful attention to how I fixed what didn't work, and in the process discovered the mechanics of the monologue.

By "mechanics" I'm referring literally to the mechanical timing of a performance.  Mechanics are "mechanical" because they do not change.  They can't change.  For example, if your character has just picked up a gun, and the next line is "Drop the gun", then you will always find your impulse in "drop".  There's no way around it.  Unless something completely unexpected happens-- such as a drunk audience member staggering up the aisle, or a light fixture dropping to the stage-- using the impulse in "drop" is an invariant, mechanical requirement.  When you don't mindfully fulfill your play's mechanical requirements, all your other work is ruined.  Hit that impulse and the gears continue to turn; miss it and the show stalls.  I've made it easy for anyone to recognize, analyze, and establish the mechanics of dialogue by helping them identify which words carry the impulses.  With this strategy I've helped students craft scenes of dialogue which flow easily and naturally from beginning to end; but I've only been able to coach monologue in the most general terms.  Until now.

At the start of The Exonerated I had some scattered statements about the nature of a monologue, only one of which was clearly mechanical:

Each monologue is a representation of one and only one complete idea.
A monologue is driven by its objective.
Sentences can be fused or segmented to draw greater attention to the objective or the idea, respectively.
Speak the idea, not the words.
Deliver naturally to your intended audience.
Breathe in to give yourself a starting impulse.

I also knew that I normally set up my performances to be dominoes; I'd knock the first one down and let the rest topple.  But I had never before played a part that wasn't primarily dialogue.  Mechanical failures are easy to detect in dialogue, because something fails to topple properly; but how do you topple a line of dominoes when you're the only domino in town?

Mechanical failures are essentially missed impulses.  In dialogue, failures are easy to spot because the impulse transaction can be observed directly-- if one actor says "drop the gun" but the other actor does not respond until after the word "gun", anyone could see that as a failed transaction.  In monologue, however, there is no overt impulse transaction, so I began thinking about how to recognize a missed impulse.  The results of a failed transaction, I considered, are unmotivated pauses and unnatural responses.  I started paying attention to when I felt my pauses were unmotivated, or when my speech felt unnaturally pushed, and as I fixed one problem spot after another the pattern started to appear.  In every instance, a problem occurred when there was a full mental stop between sentences A and B.  Each time, all I had to do was invent a reason why sentence A would cause me to speak sentence B, and the trouble disappeared.  Recognizing this, I formulated a mechanical approach to monologues.

Most simply:  For each monologue, bracket the ideas and invent connections between them.  I'll use a piece of my second monologue as illustration.

I took a polygraph test around midnight.  They wouldn't let me sleep, they wouldn't let me lie down; and the polygraph examiner said he cannot pass me because of flat lines due to fatigue.  Well, duh.  It's midnight, I'd been under questioning for six hours now, and my parents had just been murdered.  About one a.m. they got three or four photos of my parents with their heads pulled back-- you could look down their throats-- and the detective's yelling.

This section of monologue is what finally helped me understand what I was doing when I realized that I was coming to a full stop after "just been murdered".  Each time I'd rehearsed the monologue I found myself having to take a hard breath in just to get some energy to continue with the piece.  That can't be right, I thought.  I found the connection; the pause disappeared, and the build to the end became effortless.  Here's how I segmented and connected the ideas.

0 [I took a polygraph test around midnight.] 1 [They wouldn't let me sleep,] 2 [they wouldn't let me lie down;] 3 [and the polygraph examiner said he cannot pass me] 4 [because of flat lines due to fatigue.] 5 [Well, duh.] 6 [It's midnight, I'd been under questioning for six hours now, and my parents had just been murdered.] 7 [About one a.m. they got three or four photos of my parents with their heads pulled back--] 8 [you could look down their throats--] 9 [and the detective's yelling.]

0. (the "moment before")  The polygraph test was supposed to help me
1.  but this is why it couldn't help me
2.  and they even made it worse
3.  so the test failed
4.  for exactly those reasons
5.  but he should have recognized the problem
6.  because it was bad even without police interference
7.  and you want to know how bad?
8.  it was this bad
9.  and they did it on purpose!

So you can see how, using the impulse of the moment before, I am propelled into the monologue; and each idea clearly provokes the next.  This is the mechanics of monologue.  To rehearse this, to make it work, all I have to do is take each pair of ideas and say them a few times with the connecting motive between them.  After only a couple repetitions my mind and body will absorb the meaning of the connection, so that the next time I say the first idea it will pretty much force me to say the second.  Many of these connections will occur naturally, so that the bracketing is initially more descriptive than prescriptive, but being able to recognize a missed connection or a broken idea will identify the failed mechanics of a monologue.  Another practical consequence of this approach is that it becomes almost impossible to forget your lines.

March 16 - Getting warmer

The purpose of my warmup is, as I mentioned, to make my body as relaxed and available as possible.  Here are the specific exercises that I use.

I always begin with a yoga cycle I learned in 1993.  Last year I learned that this cycle is a well-known series called "Salute to the Sun", and I've seen many actors use the same series in their own warmups.  I start with the Salute because it's only as demanding as you allow it to be; even if I don't feel like doing anything I can always slide effortlessly into this exercise and increase my involvement.  Originally, I would do this cycle until I no longer felt like stopping, at which point I would consider myself "warm" and proceed with the next exercise.  Nowadays, I use the Salute cycle as a different kind of measure; I keep doing it until I feel like I have become aware of my body.  When I begin the exercise, I usually find that my movements are mindless and robotic, but as I continue I start noticing how I'm moving-- and when I feel like I've become aware of where my muscles are and what they're doing, then I'm ready to go on.

Next, I loosen my neck and shoulders.  I roll my head around, using its mass as a weight to encourage the opposing neck muscles to release, loosen, and stretch.  Then I swing each arm in a circle, about twenty times each; I make sure that I'm not using any arm muscles but swinging with momentum, letting the shoulder release and loosen.  (I do have to squeeze my fist with every swing to avoid all the fluids getting mashed into my hand.)

Then I'll shake out my entire body.  Starting from the wrists, then moving to the elbows, shoulders, chest, waist, and finally legs, I flail and jump to allow my body and joints to become as loose as possible; the wilder and more uncontrolled the movement, the better.

I drop down to the floor and lay out into a neutral position.  The neutral position is completely at rest, with no holding or tension.  I achieve this by lifting each major body part (legs, arms, head, torso) and letting it fall into whatever position it will naturally land.

Then I isolate each major muscle (or muscle group), tensing each one as tightly as possible.  I start with the toes and work my up to the scalp.  When I release the extreme tension I've created, whatever tension was previously there is also carried away, making me more relaxed than before.  Once I reach the top of my head, I find that my entire body has relaxed very comfortably into this neutral position; so now I can continue with mental exercises because I am not going to be distracted by physical discomfort.

First I have to get rid of the day.  I imagine myself holding a clear glass ball (some people use a box or a hole) and as I think of everything that's been on my mind that day I let those images flow into the glass ball, where I regard them with detachment.  The more I can remember to place into this ball, the less I'll be bothered by those thoughts during my preparation and between performance scenes.  The main part of the mental exercise will be refreshing the character's psychological and physical images, to "fill myself" with the character; naturally, then, as much of my own self as I can clear out will help.

After I've refreshed the character images, I do my most potent exercise:  I breathe in and out on a slow count.  The goal is to achieve complete fullness or absence or breath at the moment the count finishes, so that the breath is controlled throughout and not just indiscriminately huffed and sucked.  I start with four, then six, eight, ten, and if I'm really feeling good I'll try for twelve or fourteen (but that takes a long time and often pushes my physical limit).  This exercise combines breath support, relaxation, and focus.

Breath support.  This exercise constantly reminds me that I'll get the most air in if I start by drawing the diaphragm downward, allowing it to pull the air gently into my entire body instead of force-feeding the lungs and chest alone.

Relaxation.  Every step of the way I'm encouraging myself to relax.  I can get more air in if I let my muscles relax and expand to make more space for the air; I can hold my breath longer if my muscles are not engaged and using oxygen; if I happen to run out of air, my muscles become extremely weary from the experience of trying to survive without air and, in recovering, will achieve a more total relaxation.

Focus.  It's not an easy task to time one's breath, so that demands most of my attention.  Also, when you are running out of air, it's difficult to think of anything else.

The last thing I'll do is to engage my body.  To release whatever vestiges of tension might still remain, I imagine my entire body full of a chalky red substance, and as I breathe in I allow that breath to crumble the substance out of my body, away into the ground.  I start with the toes and move to the top of my head, feeling all the muscles relax as the "chalk" crumbles and leaves my body empty.  (Some people do this same exercise just by relaxing their muscles directly, and others use images like a leaking sandbag or melting ice, but I find the chalk and empty-body imagery most effective.)  Then, with each new breath, I draw a tingling blue or green flow of energy into each area of my body, feeling the muscles tingle with engagement as they receive the energy of the breath.  By the time I finish (leg, leg, pelvis, stomach, chest, arm, arm, neck, head) I literally feel like my body is floating on top of the floor and is about to levitate itself.  At this point, I may roll my legs around to loosen the hips, but that's essentially all I need for physical and mental preparation.

I do also need to do vocal warmups, but not for vocal quality.  Vocal quality is a representation of body state; by the time I reach the end of my warmups my body is relaxed and engaged and my vocal quality reflects that.  Vocal warmups are to remind me how to use my mouth, muscularly, to achieve the kinds of sounds I may want to use in performance.  I practice high, low, loud, quiet, hard, soft-- whatever permutations I can imagine to achieve maximum range and flexibility with minimum effort.  I still don't have a set routine for vocal warmups, so I was glad to take advantage of our director's vocal warmup before each performance of The Exonerated.  I noticed that he would start with basic placement (the "Y-buzz" in the language of the Lessac method), move into more aggressive sounds, and then relax back into the basic resonance to feel how that resonance had expanded as a result of the warmup.  In the future, I will probably use that pattern in addition to whatever variations I invent for myself.

March 17 - And he is us

The imagination work I did with my partner was the most effective character work that I could have done.  In addition to what it gave me as Gary, I was amused to discover what it provided me for playing his ensemble role.  In rehearsals, we reached the day where I was supposed to perform the ensemble off-book for the first time, and it occurred to me the that I had only run through the sheriff's monologue once or twice without making any effort to memorize it.  However, my partner and I had explored the sheriff's grocery store, as I saw it, and on the day I had to be off-book I was surprised to find that I already was.  Because the sheriff tells a story about what happens to him in that grocery store, all I had to do was walk around my imaginary grocery store and watch the story happen in front of me.  I still paraphrased one of the lines which dealt with the deputy in the courtroom (instead of the flashbacked grocery) but it was delightful to have the monologue already in place without any serious line study.

I think our imagination work is also what allowed us to work together as partners instead of rivals, developing the role together.  Because we created such highly specific and personalized images for each of our performances, each of us gave fundamentally different presentations.  Although we borrowed each other's ideas, we were not imitating each other.  We couldn't imitate each other without being untrue to our own Gary's reality.  Consequently, we knew that if anyone who put the two of our Garys side by side had a preference for one over the other, it wouldn't be because one was a weaker shadow of the other.  Rather, we each had a different relationship to a different (fictional) personal history, which naturally created two entirely different takes on the character.  Now it is true that, as an "understudy" and as a first-year student who has to deal with homework and obligations that are no longer on my shoulders, he had less time than I did to develop the other analytical aspects of his role (such as the arc) and, notwithstanding the initial slew of matinee-cast rehearsals, he had drastically less time to explore his analytical choices-- but because the base and framework he created was so solid, I'm pleased to say that neither of us seemed "better" or "worse" than the other.  Each of us competently presented the work we had developed, each in our own way.

It took me a while to figure out how to work with the actress playing my wife.  The first and most pressing problem was that I hadn't decided on my relationship to her-- that is, I didn't know what I wanted from her.  So for a good long while I simply ignored her as I was speaking my first monologue, and of course this left her alone to try to figure out what to do, and of course she wanted to connect with me.  Unfortunately, but understandably, this meant she would reach out and touch me at moments when she felt that I "needed support", and each time she did that I felt the impulse to stop talking and listen to her because I'd be startled and instinctively respond to her touch as though she had tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention.  Still, I couldn't complain; I hadn't given her anything specific to respond to.  I gradually decided that I must need her support, and I developed the first and last monologues to the point where I would feel I needed her support.  Then I had a brief discussion with her about our two scenes, mainly to assure her that I would turn to her for her response when I actually did need her, so she wouldn't have to wonder or guess.  She allowed me to do that, and in each performance I was deeply grateful, as Gary and as myself, to have her there to turn to.

March 19 - Sound it out

After my final monologue, which was five sentences long, I was to stay "frozen" on stage through the next four monologues, which were considerably longer than five sentences.  It wasn't difficult to keep myself occupied during this time; rather than blank out or try to stay literally frozen, I'd allow myself to listen to the speeches and let the impulses of what they were saying affect my body, as Gary, and I'd observe what subtle shifts would result.  Also, because I was deliberately not standing in a neutral position, I would have to be constantly monitoring and releasing any tension and pressure introduced by my stance.  At the very end, though, the fellow playing David launched into a verse of "Amazing Grace"-- hoary and cliche, perhaps, but the actor's voice was soulful and beautiful enough that the audience forgave whatever complaints they may have had; and when he sang I was always fascinated enough to silently imitate him.

I only recently realized that this is actually a skill:  I can listen to a person speaking and determine exactly how they are using their mouth.  This is, of course, useful for dialect coaching; I can detect an actor's current usage and advise them on what specifically needs to change.  I can listen to someone who speaks with an accent and mimic them-- but I don't mimic the sound of their voice, I mimic the style.  Sometimes I can't intellectually recognize or literally describe what they're doing until I do it myself; silently mimicking a German woman is how I discovered the general German usage (tongue behind teeth, back of throat closed), and silently mimicking the actor playing David is how I discovered the usage that gives him such resonance and power in his singing voice.  Because I've only just become aware of this skill as a skill, I don't yet know whether it's as easy to detect usage in recorded voices, but I suspect I'd need three-dimensional fidelity to be able to judge.

I asked the assistant director whether she thought this skill was unusual or if it was widely shared.  She thought I might be exaggerating, so she took a few moments to change her voice and challenge me to identify what she was doing.  Once she was satisfied that I was able to recognize her usage, she offered a speculation which seemed to me a reasonable answer.  People who have been specifically trained to use their voice, she supposed, would probably be adequately self-aware that they could aurally recognize how others were using their vocal instrument.  Otherwise, she suggested, what most people would most likely recognize and attempt to imitate would be the way a voice sounded.  I only had to reflect on this a moment to think that it was true; after all, most "dialect coaching" focuses on vowel substitution.  Additionally there was one fellow The Exonerated who, in attempting to have a distinct dialect, would generally speak in a way that sounded like the dialect while clearly failing to be the actual dialect.  I suspect, however, that the ability to detect mouth usage is fairly easily trained, once the listener is made aware that they should be listening for the muscles rather than to the sound.

March 20 - The singing swan

The director's comment about emotion is one which I will continue to observe and explore.  Perhaps it will prove to be a rule:  Show it and the audience will sympathize; hide it and they'll empathize.  I went today to watch the movie V for Vendetta and noticed two scenes in particular.  When the lead actress was reading a letter which moved her, but she was holding back her tears, I became just as weepy as she; but when she was completely broken down and bawling out of control I understood, dispassionately, how she must be feeling.  That seems to be the trick-- when you want to give the audience the chance to identify with the character, you have to allow them the opportunity to decide for themselves how they would feel in the character's circumstances.  When you want the audience to understand how the character has been affected, you have to show the emotion as clearly as possible.  Empathy versus sympathy.  If one is mindfully aware of how to choose between the two in performance, the question becomes:  when is one more desirable than another?

I'm not sure there's a formulaic answer.  Perhaps it's part of the actor's craft, to know when and what to show.  Perhaps it's nothing more than a blunt tool for the director to deliberately manipulate the level of involvement they desire for the audience.  In either case it's an artistic decision, so it may be enough for me to recognize that the difference exist and can, if necessary, be deliberately orchestrated to make one's performance more effective.  In my performance as Gary, I observed myself naturally switching back and forth between demonstration and participation-- that is, sometimes I wanted the audience to ask themselves how they would feel under such interrogation, and other times I wanted to present the image of a man in distress, wrongfully under siege.  The choices arose directly out of how the text supported my objective, and the choices came naturally because the objective involved the audience directly.  I could conclude, perhaps, that although there's no formula about when empathy is better than sympathy, an actor or a director would want to recognize when they want the audience to focus on the text and when they want the audience to focus on the actor's inner life.

Which of these we accomplished with our production of The Exonerated, I'm not sure.  I believe that part of the reason we were so successful is that the text is so powerful, simple, and honest that it stands on its own, absent the performers' work; this is both its strength and its weakness.  As one of my instructors described it, she felt like she was reading a Newsweek article rather than watching live theater-- but as I understand it, that's largely the point.  This play was written to be reader's theater.  It was designed to be presented by actors who were clearly and solely interpreting the text, not "being" the characters but merely presenting the stories of the characters in a literal, meaningful way.  This would seem an obvious choice for a director who, in the classes he teaches, is constantly reminding his students that they need not feel anything to get power and purpose out of the text they speak.

And yet the director took this production well beyond the text.  With lighting, sound, and set, he created a more immersive experience than anyone expected... which leaves me to wonder, what if we had taken it all the way?  Our director told us from the start that the production was unusual in that these "characters" actually exist as real people, which is why we should not attempt to overplay it.  The authors exhort in their preface to the play that the actors playing these parts should recognize that the "characters" are not re-living these experiences (with the actor's emotional indulgences) but are in fact relating them to an interviewer.  And yet, obviously, no interview would take place in the manner of the technical design for our show.  That is, our show was designed to be a theatrical event, not a textual interpretation.  The staging was intended to draw the audience's awareness to the people who are on stage in front of them, not the people being talked about in the stories.  To that end, I wonder what would have happened if, in their character analysis, everyone had gone beyond the story of the text?

That's what I attempted to do.  My character arc was not based on the story, but on my relationship to the experience of that story.  I believe I succeeded in my attempt not simply to relate to the audience what had happened to Gary once upon a time, but to use that story as a tool to show the audience something that was happening to me right here and now, something which was worth seeing, a thing separate from and further beyond the recollection alone.  In short, the audience saw my Gary Gauger facing the fear of finally confronting this horror and, ultimately, coming out on top.  I have made it through, and I am at peace with myself.  The tale of what came before was essentially a vehicle for showing (not telling) Gary's real story, which is what is happening to him right now before your eyes.  What would have happened if each of the actors had taken this approach?  I'd like to think that the production would have become more powerful still.  My father said he would have preferred to see me as Kerry because that character had considerably more stage time; my classmates told me that they might have wanted to see it if only to have a greater proportion of the show subject to the depth and diligence that I applied to Gary (although of course we agreed that the show didn't suffer for the fellow who did play the role).  We won't know what could have happened, but I can imagine.

In any case, the show is done, and it is my final University of Florida production.  I'm pleased to have gone out on a good note.