Theater; The Demon Seesaw Actors Ride
Frank Langella, The New York Times
His hands were trembling so much I thought he was going to break into a hundred pieces like a Tom and Jerry cartoon character. He had been sitting at a nearby table in an L.A. actors' hangout and as he got up to leave, he threw me a ''We've never met, but I know you'' wave. I waved back and asked him to join my table. He hesitated a beat, then came over.
I was having a late supper with an actress friend, keeping a date we'd made in New York earlier that week. We three exchanged perfunctory L.A. versus New York cliches: the requisite ''Love your work'' phrase and avoidance of the ''What are you doing?'' question. The trembling hands continued throughout our 10-minute conversation. I resisted the urge to ask him if he was all right because something inside me understood the tremble and knew the answer.
This man had once been at the top of our profession. A series of successful films and an Oscar nomination had capped a hot streak lasting some four or five years in the mid-70's. Things turned bad. He was now 50 and forgotten. Facing me was an actor climbing the ladder again. Lightly tanned, clean-shaven, eggshell thin, in a blazer and tie; the hands trembling to hold onto the bottom rungs once more. He excused himself and said he was off to see a midnight movie. ''I want to get lost in the dark of the theater,'' he said.
My friend and I fell silent, wondered if we could have been more solicitous, and decided it was best not to invade a shell that seemed barely held together. But his tremble stayed with me through dinner and after I drove her home. It awoke a fear in me. It became a symbol of the questions I had been asking myself more persistently each year. Why do actors live the lives we do?
Some basic truths about us, some fundamentals: married, single, divorced, rich, broke, breaking in or holding on, the morning after Oscar, Tony or Emmy, or struggling along without recognition; whether we are newcomers, superstars, an enduring light, a flash in the pan, a has-been or a comeback king, from low self-esteem to insufferable arrogance - we are the seesaw kids. Kids who hold on tight and wait, wait for the call, the audition, the part, the review - and then we do it again. Those are the ground rules. You accept them if you are an actor. And you accept the demons.
To read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/09/17/arts/theater-the-demon-seesaw-actors-ride.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm