January 12, 2008


Last night was the premiere of the French play I am currenty appearing in. Given that I had been called in at the last minute to replace one of the lead actresses after 5 months of rehearsal and only got the benefit of 10 rehearsals in total, I was suitably freaked out about how Friday night might turn out.
So, here is how to went: before my first entrance onto stage I suddenly took fright and grabbed the thigh of the actor waiting next to me and whispered:
is it me next??
He nodded very slowly and squeezed my hand in what I presume he thought was a comforting fashion. Well, turns out, it was (a comforting fashion AND me next). Once I was up there, all was well. I didn't fluff any lines and even remembered to act a bit!

That was followed by a costume change and my Next Challenge: signing while speaking a French text. When the director found out I signed, she wanted to use that in her play.
Oh, but I don't know French Sign Language (LSF)
said I.
No matter
said she,
use South African Sign (SASL) or whatever you like!

That's all well and good, but essentially amounts to speaking two languages simultaneously - French with my lips, tongue and voicebox and Sign English with my body. Plus, I hate speaking when I sign because the voice always has to wait for the pictures you're painting in the air to catch up... and it sounds stilted and slowed down. To make things that little bit harder for myself, I put in some British signs that I picked up during the short film shoot in London in December with the deaf actors. Then 3 days ago, I found a French Sign Language DVD and rushed through the dictionary chapter picking up bits and bobs of French Sign as well. So my signing is very schizophrenic as it darts and dives from SASL to British SL to LS Française, all in the space of one sentence because I've picked the most visually interesting signs and jumbled them. BUT: it all went swimmingly!

Once the pressure was off and I got into the non-signing part of the play I did have a brain fart. Spoke one line and then stared hard at my partner, to try and let her know that I had officially blanked on what came next. She stared hard back and then eventually picked up from where I would usually have finished. It was only ONE line though, so not too much of a gaping hole in the text. And then, in the last scene (with the thundering applause already in earshot :-), I fluffed a line. The line just BEFORE the one that is my usual nemesis, my total undoing, because it has the most unforgiving arrangement of French consonants possible for an anglophone tongue. In anticipation of getting my tongue ripped out of my mouth by THAT line, I switched the word-order of the line before and had to (un)gracefully switch it back to preserve the meaning.

Okay, but now all that has happened and it's done with and the show goes on. Now that I am no longer terrified, I can enjoy the ride.... oh and as luck would have it (or Murphy; we're quite close) there was a guy in the audience who is fluent in French Sign Language. Well, wouldn't you know it! However, he was so gratified & moved to see signing in a hearing play that he loved what I did. (That's what he told the director at any rate). Although he admitted he couldn't understand all of it for it was a mix. Bless. (And now I sound like PEAS! Bless!)

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