Journey through the Creation of Adapt! - Getting Naked
An Actress's Notebook by Krista Apple
45 minutes into Adapt!, I make my entrance by getting rolled onstage in a bathtub. I take a bubble bath for a bit, then get out, dry myself off, get dressed. It’s the first time I’ve ever been naked onstage. But it’s not the moment in Adapt! when I feel the most exposed.
Twenty minutes after my bathtub nakedness, after two costume changes, two jumps in time, and an onstage dance party, my character – Lenka 35 – admits to the impending failure of her marriage. She warns Lenka (the younger version of herself, seeing a possible future) never to fall in love. “You think one marries to get away from loneliness? … No, sweetheart, don’t believe it. Marriage gives birth to loneliness.”
Me as Lenka 35 in Adapt! Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
Blanka said those words to me once not so long ago. In comfort, and in warning. My own marriage was failing. Before I had even been cast in Adapt!, it seems I was already working on the role.
In creating a character, I search for the essence of any moment. The universality. The idea that transcends facts (“Lenka 35 is losing her husband”) to truth (“this woman is losing her marriage.”). Some truths come easier than others.
There’s a perk to acting they never teach you in school, but it’s an inevitable lesson of time. You get to fail forward. You get to take what you learn the hard way in life and make some good out of it, somehow, somewhere, in your art. It can make the intolerable moments tolerable sometimes - knowing that some good will come of it, or at least some understanding.
The moment of real nakedness, for me, is not when I’m standing onstage with no clothes on. It’s the moment twenty minutes later, when I’m admitting to the loss and failure of a love and marriage. I know there are people in the audience who know me well, and who see the connection. It’s a vulnerable feeling. Here’s how it felt. Here’s how it feels. Here’s what my grief sounds like. Here are its words.
Lenka 35’s body is my body. Her words are my words. Am I telling my story? No. I am telling hers. Always. (Let that be clear.) But sometimes life gives you terrible gifts, as I often tell my Freshman Acting students at UArts. And some stories, in time, become easier to tell.
To embody any character is to meet the moments of their reality that you can imagine as your own, for the sake of the audience. Embodying Lenka 35 is to embody the essence of a woman who must face the loss of a love and a marriage. And it’s that moment when I have to work in spite of self-consciousness, and in spite of a sometimes very deep feeling of exposure. Vulnerability. Fear. Next to that, being naked feels like a walk in the park.
Me and Aneta Kernova in Adapt! Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
The playwright Steven Dietz, in the introduction to his wonderful play The Nina Variations, describes it this way: “We are, too often, silent on the fundamentals. We have a rich language for complaint and provocation but fall strangely mute in the face of lost love. Or quiet delight. The rich ache of daily life. And when the moment passes – when our lover is gone, when our friend closes the door – we are left only with parking lot wit: useless, retroactive wisdom about what we should have said or done instead. The stage is that place where second chances are granted; where the tiny slights and cruel evasions which haunt our relations with others can be amended, rethought, overcome. The stage gives us one more chance to throw open the door and say what’s in our heart.”
My students sometimes struggle, at the age of eighteen, to meet onstage moments of great love, loss, struggle. Their innocence inspires me, and I wish I could preserve it for them. But I know the best artistic lessons they’ll learn are, often, the ones that life will inevitably teach them. The ones we wish they’d never have to learn. I suppose this post is for them. Writing this is an act of admittance. Writing at all is an act of vulnerability too, as I know Blanka can tell you. There’s a naked truth that exists once an idea is on the page and stage, regardless of its literal truth. Even acts of great imagination are artistic acts of defiance and bravery. Admittances of here’s what I know, down in my soul. Admittances of here’s how I can imagine the world. Admittances of here’s how it feels. Here are its words.
Two weeks left to perform Adapt!. Two more blog posts about the process still to come. For now, dear reader, over and out. Hope to see you at the show.