So if you’re a frequent reader you might have noticed a bit of a decline in posting in the last month. That’s because I’ve started observing the rehearsals of Adam Rapp’s new play, The Metal Children, at the Vineyard. When you tell theater people that you’re observing Adam Rapp, you tend to get mixed reactions. His work is polarizing, like all brave modern theater, and writer-directors tend to be viewed with less charity by directors (mostly because they keep us out of a job.) So when I get a so-so or even a negative reaction to my observership, I have to resist the urge to say “Oh, by the way, Billy Crudup’s in it too.”
I’ve already observed Susan Stroman, which in some ways, was a bigger celebrity moment for me than Billy because, well, I don’t want to grow up to be Billy. (Though I do kind of want to grow up and be Dr. Manhattan.)
I do really enjoy Billy’s work. He was the first American Katurian in Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman and starred in one of my favorite period films, set in one of my favorite periods, and definitely my favorite masculinity studies film by far, Stage Beauty.
This is my favorite interpretation of Othello by far. As Claire Danes’ character points out in the film (and it’s also a wonderful play), a woman in Desdemona’s situation would fight back, not “die beautifully.” It’s a scene of domestic violence, and it should be terrifying.
Any way, observing is just that, observing. So it’s really an exercise in taking good notes and laughing encouragingly. The process is amazing and I couldn’t be more excited for the show or more grateful for the opportunity.
The thing is…I’m beginning to realize some very strange things about my own personal style and anxieties.
New York is, to quote a friend, a really glamorous city in some ways. In some ways it’s not at all. NYC moves very fast so there’s a lot of people who are too busy to dress in “high fashion” or in anything other than “comfortable and relatively presentable.” I take classes at Primary Stages and work at the Vineyard, and there’s only a few people who I’ve looked at and been like “OMG FASHION WOW.” In fact, I was even more confused by the lack of people wearing makeup.
Now makeup and I have a relatively unhealthy relationship. I went through a phase in high school where I decided if I was going to wear makeup, I would really, really wear makeup. Like Chrissie Hynde or Joan Jett. Black eyeliner, smoky eye, the works.
I still tend towards that vein when I do wear makeup. For some strange reason, eyeliner has always given me confidence. So the first few days of observing rehearsals I wore eyeliner. I felt safe and strong and pretty.
So the week goes on and I’ve got stuff to do, like editing my Dollhouse essay for publication, setting up my schedule for next year, and writing so much literary coverage. So sometimes I don’t have enough time to put makeup on. And I don’t just mean no eyeliner, I mean no foundation.
So it’s all acne town up in here for me, and when I look in the mirror it’s not like Proactiv commercial “before” level but it’s red and blotchy and just not very Hollywood. So I’ve been wearing foundation and hiding it. But sometimes I wake up late, sometimes I run out of the door. And suddenly I realize in the middle of rehearsal, when Billy smiles at me, that I’m not wearing makeup.
And there is a moment of crisis and self-consciousness and chastisement, and then I realize that the reason I should be chastising myself is that I even care at all. I was raised by a beautiful feminist hippie of a woman who resisted me wearing makeup at every turn. Not because she thought it was slutty or attention-getting but more because she thought I didn’t need it. I mean she’s my mom. She thinks I’m beautiful without makeup.
I’m not sure she’s right but let’s look at this realistically for a second. Why do women wear makeup? For confidence, for amplifying attraction. I tend not to wear makeup when I’m going to meet women unless they seem like they’re really into “fashion” themselves [read as tend to dress up and wear makeup.] I’ll be honest, when I’m know I’m going to see a guy I’m attracted to, I’ll wear makeup, and I have a little moment of panic when I see a crush of mine and I’m not “presentable,” i.e. no acne coverup, sweatpants, slightly dirty hair. But as the brilliant Cynthia Heimel tells us, in her book If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?
That man over there in my bed? I used to doll myself up. One Tuesday morning I went to the post office in ratty sweats, zero makeup, and my hair a frazzle. There he was.
“Don’t look at me!” I shrieked, hiding behind the wanted posters.
He looked at me. “You looked really adorable,” he said, and kissed me. His eyes shone, so I knew he meant it.
Sure, Cynthia can be a little hokey, but she’s got a good point. If you don’t love each other when you’re gross, what’s the point? You’d constantly be performing for each other.
Anyway back to makeup-less me in the rehearsal room. Was I dressed at the level of formality for rehearsal? Yes. Was my hair clean? Yes. Was I taking good notes? Yes. Was I being helpful to the stage management team and gracious to the director and actors? Yes. Was I wearing makeup? No. Was I stylish? No. And you know what? Most of the men in the room weren’t either.
I’m not trying to seduce anyone in that room, and my confidence should come from my faith in myself, not from my eyeliner.
…But I still wish I was Chrissie Hynde.