It’s the first day of school which is musical theater slang for the first day of rehearsal. I am not in a musical, I’m not doing Man of La Mancha or Guys and Dolls, I am cast in serious Shakespearean drama, Macbeth. And I am playing a very coveted role in that show: Murder Three.
And Macbeth is a hard play under the best of circumstances, but this is a 2013 production Macbeth so naturally it takes place post-apocalypse in a Mad Max world where everything is just done. And as we’re blocking and getting into rehearsals my director will say things to me like, “You know Chris, when you’re on stage you’re very tall. When you’re in that scene you’re very present. You’re very broad.”
I’m like, “he’s trying to say something but can’t quite figure out what he means.”
And we’re in Tech and it’s very stressful because there is fire and violence and blood flying everywhere during the show and after hearing an inherent note section he pulls me aside from the group and says, “I’ve been trying to get this through to you, Mr. Pappas, but when you are on stage you are acting too gay! And if you don’t stop acting this way I’m going to take away your lines and I will put you in the back of the stage.”
And getting fired from a role that just has 3 lines, in some ways it’s more insulting than getting fired from lead. And I walked out of the theater back behind the green room and it’s January but I’m in Alabama so it’s still fucking hot and I am in black combat boots for my costume, black combat boots, black studded skinny jeans, a black torn tank top, a leather harness, and a long, dreadlocked wig, and I just burst into tears. And I’m holding the wig away from my face because I don’t want to get it wet because the wig is worth more than I am and I’m just like, “You’ve got to pull this together, you’ve only got 5 more hours of rehearsal, you can do this.”
So I pull myself together and I get back inside and I get through the rest of the day and I get back to my apartment and I have a full Lady Macbeth breakdown in my apartment. And I pull my bag out of my closet and I grab all of my clothes and I’m shoving my clothes in my bag, and I zip it up,and I get to my front door and I just scream at my front door and I take my bag back in my room and I unpack all my stuff then I scream at my closet. And then I do this four or five times. And by that point I’ve totally lost my voice because I’ve been screaming at inanimate objects the last hour and I go in the bathroom and I am sobbing and I am hitting at my sink and I am looking at myself and I am ugly and I am worthless and I am as ugly as that note that he gave me. And I’m looking at myself in the mirror and I’m like, “That’s what he meant.” It’s not about being gay, this is an ugly play, this is an ugly story, make it ugly.
So I go back to Rehearsal the next day and I had completely lost my voice which as a trained actor is kind of impressive and I’m like, “I’m making some changes to my character. By the way, can we add sleeves to my costume, I really think that would help butch things up.” And they do. So my first scene I walk on and instead of being Chris, I give myself a hunchback and I turn my foot in and I sort of waddle on stage and everybody is looking at me but the show just goes on. And at one point I have to run on stage because Lady Macbeth faints and I have to go pick her up so I’m hobbling onto the stage and I hoist her up into my arms and I carry her down, and I look at her and go, “You know we could keep running and we wouldn’t have to do the second act.”
And she goes, “I know, but we can’t.” So that became a ritual that we would pretend to run away with each other every night.
And “Good” was the note that I got. It was just “Good” which was fine with me. If I could just get through this that would be totally fine. So it’s time to leave the theater and we’re having exit interviews and the director of the show sits down with me and he says, “I understand that a note that I gave you was a little upsetting to you.” Which was an understatement but I just let that slide.
And I go, “Yes, giving a note that somebody acts gay isn’t fair because who I am in real life isn’t who I am on stage. It’s the same as telling a black actor ‘You were acting too black’ or a white actor ‘You were acting too white’. An inherent part of who I am is not a note, that is not acting.”
And he said that he understood and moving forward it would be something he would certainly keep in mind. But acting too tall, that’s probably a note I’m going to have to get used to.