I used to get The Actor's Nightmare all the time, as I've posted about before. Then I quit acting, and I started to get a variant: I'd dream that I was in a theatrical production, and I wanted to get out. I'd be desperate, not to remember my lines, but to quit the show without getting into some ill-defined trouble.
So why did I quit? Not in the dream, but in real life?
There's many answers to that question, as there are many facets of the problem.
Recently, though, I read something that gave me a fresh perspective on the matter. I finally bought a copy of Genesis's album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and I was eager to learn anything I could about the backstory of the album's creation.
Sidenote: My official position is that, post-college, I'd rather listen to Coltrane go to the toilet than waste time on english art-school boys of the 70s as they churn out maximum arpeggios per square inch and lyrics that play like Tennyson freestyling; but it's all a lie, a horrible lie. I heart Progressive Rock. Readers may remember Genesis for Invisible Touch, but long before they crafted slick pop songs with Phil Collins on vocals, they crafted ornate fantasy ballads with Peter Gabriel on vocals and Phil on drums.
I'd resisted getting Lamb even though it's reputed to be their finest hour (or 80 minutes) since I already own a few albums by the band, and one's pretty much interchangeable with the other for a non-fanatic. This one, though, really was different. It starts in a gritty-ish urban setting, and while it eventually gets around to the usual fantasy material, the band manages some tasty atonal free-jazz, along with some stripped-down revisions of their prior lush sound. It reminds me more than a bit of Abacab, a later album on which they made a clean break with Ye Olde Genesis and surfed a New Wave. And while the Puerto Rican street tough who figures as their protagonist probably wouldn't listen to the synth-heavy Anglo plunkings of this band, that's not necessarily a fault. Pynchon's characters mostly wouldn't read Pynchon's books.
Oh yeah but anyway, when they played this stuff live Gabriel put on a big theatrical show, with costume changes and stuff. So poking around for info on this stuff, I found this website. It's got a quote from Gabriel's wife at the time, pilfered from an authorized bio of Peter by one Spence Bright. Take it a way, Peter Gabriel's ex-wife!
"He was angry, and it was a very powerful performance. He totally opened himself and put himself on the line to the world, but he wasn't in his relationship with me. I would say to him, 'Why can't you be like that for me?' I remember sitting in the audience and feeling completely turned on by this guy who I was married to. But he was not able to be that person outside the stage. And that is what has slowly broken down over the years, being able to take that part of himself into his everyday life."
So. Back in 2000 or so, I was in a play which included a bit of flirting between my character and another. The stage manager mentioned to me that I became a different person in that scene; "Your whole demeanor is different," she said, and she was right. I became utterly free and open and flirtatious, in a way that was barred to me in offstage life. The stage was a safe place to play at such experimental things as "flirting". It would be years before I decided to take that onstage demeanor into my real life.
I few years ago I concluded that I couldn't sustain that energy, that power, in real life while bringing it onstage at the same time. In performance situations (including auditions) I became enervated, lacking the will to give my first fruits to the 25-year-old white boys who handle the casting-call scut work in most regional theatres. I had somewhere better to put my energy, my openness, my Eros. I put it into my marriage.
Not long ago I dreamt of attending the theatre. I was a cheerful audience member, enjoying a mysterious pageant upon the stage. The actor's nightmare has been replaced by the audience member's sweet dream.
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And speaking of sweet dreams, here's an old Yes song (more prog rock, I know) featuring Peter Banks on guitar. Peter was the first of many people to leave/get fired from Yes, and is now the first former Yes member to die. His death is more melancholy than the death of many other Yes people will be, because he never got to taste much success. I've read a few interviews with him, and he seemed painfully aware of the missed opportunities in his career. He made some interesting recordings, though. Sweet Dreams.