In November, Kristin Huffman made her Broadway debut as Sarah (flute, piccolo and sax) in John Doyle's production of Company. The actress, with a new series of tales that go inside the making of Company from an actor's perspective, starting at the Cincinnati Playhouse and on to New York, continues her stories about a 15-year career that has led her to the door of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
This is the twenty-first story about the "Making of Company." If you haven't read the others, go back and do so and then rejoin us here!
SCENE TWENTY-ONE: SEE SAW
"See saw", said Marjorie Daw, but Master Rook sang, "Caw, Caw". Say it with a British accent and you have the exact exercise that Una Harrison taught the little elementary school acting hopefuls at Children's Theatre many years ago. When "little Kristin" took that class my childish self naturally assumed I would make it to Broadway some day. Ah youth. I know now that I didn't realize the full ramifications of that dream.
This Broadway dream is a See Saw of emotions that no child could ever understand. Ecstatic to be here finally! Frustrated that you aren't getting every little thing perfect. Joyful to be on a Broadway stage! Exasperated that you can't find time to relax and fully realize that idea. Honored to be chosen! Wondering if you are up to the task at hand. Up and down.
Broadway is much more than that child's dream of being in the limelight. It is more than that adult's dream of just getting to practice your "craft". If it were that easy we wouldn't be thinking about the Press Week when any reporters can come and review us. The actual reviews will be published after we officially open, but this week we will see them lurking in the shadows with their busy little pencils and pads. Even those anonymous "posts" on BroadwayWorld.com by those who have attended the Previews aren't as potentially damaging as a bad review. Luckily we have already been reviewed, out in Cincinnati by the New York Times and other notables who liked us but the production has changed since we came to NY. So we start over being haunted by questions such as: will they still like Company? How much should an artist care about someone's subjective view? John Doyle swears he doesn't care at all. Up side is that the NY Times is reviewing something you are actually in! Down side is that they could rip you apart or worse, not even mention your name!
Wouldn't it be great if we were immune to the See Saw of praise or criticism? If we could truly just be happy with what we have created without having anyone else's approval? There may be some little theatres, tucked into cozy little towns, with wealthy endowments, that can do that. This is Broadway. Where the money coming in needs to equal or exceed the money going out. Reviews and opinions put butts in seats. The See Saw can't seem to forget that fact. Directors say not to read the reviews. Heather swears she never does and I believe her. But there are still times when you accidentally go online and catch a glimpse of one of your cast mates being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal or photographed for something. Stay bright and shiny. Do your job. Just "create". Be a light shining in the forest for…oh for Pete's sake. I am TRYING!
How do you keep your balance when everything around you See Saws up and down? I don't have to worry as much as folk in film or on TV. High pressure for them is even crazier than mine. Still, see saws, like jungle gyms, can be tricky and dangerous. Once you get your head in balance, your body falls apart. Once you get to your massage therapist and straighten that out, your head teeters down again. Your emotions seem to want to stay anywhere but in the center.
Things are so off balance that a little thing like your piccolo breaking in the middle of the show doesn't even register on your panic scale anymore. The little pip squeak decided to pop a spring so that during my solo in Side by Side, I sounded like a junior high school band member on her first day of class. Instead of worrying about my lack of tone quality while sitting on my box for the rest of Act II my mind was occupied with the See Saw emotions connected to our impending Opening Night which led me to contrast and compare silver shoes vs. black shoes to go with my chosen evening gown.