What follows is an email sent last week by my friend, the actor Kerry Shale. It’s too good not to share, and makes me grateful for the more gentle horrors of the blank page.

So, this play. Best script I’ve worked on ever and a part made for me. A smart, self-loathing Jew but not a Woody Allen type (well, a bit).  

But halfway through rehearsals, I’d wake up (after an Ativan night or a scalding bath night: often both) to be subsumed by The Black Dog of Death barking in my ear: “you’ll never memorize the fucking lines. You are DOOMED to disgrace yourself in public. This is the end of the road, motherfucker. You will go down in FLAMES.”
In the midst of this waking nightmare, I climb the stairs to the Wardrobe Department. The nice suit-lady leaves and I pull on the half-finished wide-lapelled beauty of a suit. As I gaze into the mirror, I catch sight of my eyes. There is not a scintilla of humour or pleasure or perspective there. I see only pure misery and terror. And I am suddenly sweating like a pig. The suit material feels like heavy rubber. I’m at the bottom of the sea without any breathing apparatus. Nice suit-lady comes back in and we discuss sleeve length. I will my voice into some semblance of human discourse. 
Somehow I get though the fitting.

This, I think, was a panic attack.

I didn’t really get over it until Press Night. I dug deep. Not only did I remember all my lines (for more or less the first time), I helped the lead when he got lost in our first scene. Oh, it was sweet to make The Dog lie down and roll over.

The terrors didn’t leave for at least another week. And I still fuck up from time-to-time. But so does the rest of the cast. It’s a bitch of a play to play. I’ve had moments of joy on stage. Moments of in-the-now-ness. Lots of them. You don’t appreciate them as they happen, but the minute you step offstage, you mentally punch the air. Touchdown!

Now it’s over. And the Old Life begins again.

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4 thoughts on “You think writing’s bad? Try acting.

  1. Bazza 5 years ago

    Until I just checked on Google Images I had no idea what Kerry Shale looked like (I had imagined him more hairy!) because for years he has been the stock humorous American on Radio 4 Plays and Comedy. Who would be an actor? They must be very needy!

  2. sharon creech 5 years ago

    I think I was having a panic attack just reading about the panic attack.

  3. sharon creech 5 years ago

    p. s. Meg: Just saw a starred review in Publishers Weekly (USA) for THERE IS NO DOG. Yazza!

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