(Above, Takeshi, me and Logan, Christmas sabbatical year in New Zealand 1999-2000.)
The six weeks of My Stroke of Luck at The Marsh San Francisco flew by, in retrospect. 6 weeks performing in one theater, with a near flawless tech who held and supported me, crack publicity, marketing, production, and front of house teams, building momentum, with engaged audiences, then surprise United Solo Best Storytelling Script Award, a TBA Recommended Production award, good review, sold out houses: what's not to like???
But confess, I was worried. After developing and touring the show, felt confident I had a story to tell that really connected. Arrived back from United Solo Off Broadway and The Atlanta Black Theater Festival with 3 weeks rehearsal time, ready to rock it, eager to work again with my director, Rebecca Fisher, who wasn't on the road with me, tuning and sharpening up. But the October 11th fires, far enough from us that we were not in imminent danger, filled the air with enough smoke and particules to trigger my allergies, and within 24 hours, my voice was gone. Yes, I got a mask but the damage was done. Laryngitis a week before opening! try rehearsing with no voice!! Yes, I could go through the blocking (the movements on stage and physical actions), yes, I could run lines in my head (you can imagine how well that goes) and study the script, but being moment to moment with the work silently?? Not an art form I've perfected.
So I put out a plea for help on Facebook. Some of you may have seen and responded! Thank you all! I religiously tried all your sugggested remedies! (My favorites: Slippery Elm Bark Throat Lozenges, Throat Coat Tea, Singer's Throat Coat Spray, and Honey/Lemon/Ginger tea. My water glass on stage is filled with 4 parts Throat Coat Tea, 1 part H/L/G.) And they all helped. I saw my doctor, got new allergy meds, nasal steroids, saw ENT, (no lesions on cords, Hallalujah!), got rx for "silent reflux" and regimen for sinus rinse, as allergies and reflux are slowing healing, and admonition to avoid strain.
But of course, the main stay of recovery is complete vocal rest. So for 10 days, I said NOTHING. Nada! Which was another adventure. (A number of workmen laughed, saying, "Wish my wife had that!" But Logan, older son, was NOT happy.)
I take a pad and pen, and head to CVS.
"Throat lozenges?" I write. Clerk smiles, gestures for me to give her pen and pad.
"Aisle 11," she writes, returns the pen and paper, then shouts,"Aisle 11" waving her arms wildly in that direction. It would have been funny, if I'd been able to laugh. (Turns out Cepacol is NOT a good solution, numbs rather than soothes your throat, predisposing to overuse, but I digress.)
Then to Staples to find something to cut the glare from my shiny white posterboards (see below).
"What aisle contact paper?" I write. After 3 misdirections, I find a fourth clerk. I write, "I'm looking for contact paper, it isn't on Aisle 4, 7 or with school supplies."
"What's contact paper?" he shouts.
"A roll of colored paper/plastic with sticky back," I write.
"Never heard of it but we don't have it," he shouts, and leaves. Clerk 5 knows what it is, shows me where it is, but they carry only clear and white. So off to Home Depot, where, with a few fewer interactions, I find myself in front of a rack of decorator patterned contact paper, none of which will do. (Solution was black posterboard from the Dollar Store and glue.)
So, 10 days before run starts, with a week of rehearsals cancelled, Rebecca says, "Maybe we need to postpone the run."
NO-o-o-o-o!!! I've had allergies my whole life, and know my larynx is vulnerable whenever I have a URI. In the 80's, I had laryngitis for 3 months straight after bronchitis. I was working, so created a book of posters saying everything I usually needed in interacting with patients and physicians (that wouldn't appear in the typed record). But my favorite, which I held up when people expressed sympathy for my plight, "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug." And I'd shrug. Yes, I was a different creature back then!
But I wasn't going to let anything keep me from my dream. Rebecca said, "Then maybe you need to get some vocal support for the length of the run."
I immediately thought of Robert Britton, an Alexander Technique teacher I'd met through Anna Deveare Smith workshop contact.
So, been working with Bob, correcting years of habits that cause strain on my cords. "The good news is your injury opened the door for you to find a better way," He said cheerfully -and he hasn't seen my show!!
Long story short, my voice now bounces between 85 and 95%, hoping we can get to 100% in the 3 week holiday break before resuming run 1/4-2/3 (after which I head to the Caribbean on the 15th Anniversary sailing of the Smooth Jazz Cruise, sold out for over a year! YES!!!)
Tickets and Info: TheMarsh.org
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