Friday, July 31, 2015

BOY GETS GIRL and BOYS' LIFE

Me as Theresa Bedell in BOY GETS GIRL
I’m a little late in talking about these shows, because producing theater takes so much attention that promoting myself takes a back seat! But talking about these shows is more than just sharing the work I’m doing - it’s also a glimpse into my psyche at a time when everything is in turmoil.

For those of you who don’t yet know, on May 15, 2015 I was diagnosed with Stage IIB triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma, also known as aggressive breast cancer. Yes, I am in my 30s, and no, no one else on my family has ever had cancer this young. I am an anomaly.

I was in the midst of our pre-production process for BOY GETS GIRL and BOYS’ LIFE when heard the news and I’m so glad I was. It’s given me so much else to focus on other than my own worries and fears. What’s been interesting is that in BOY GETS GIRL (which I’m acting in - I directed BOYS’ LIFE) I play someone who sinks slowly and deeply into despair and fear. How fitting, then, that I’m experiencing the same kind of dread in my “real” life.

The day I was diagnosed I was in a session we call Dramaturgy at The Seeing Place. Our dramaturgy is different than dramaturgy you normally hear about. Normal dramaturgy involves having an expert go through the script and research the history of the play its details, then share those findings with the director and the cast. For us, this month long process is a chance for the production team and the actors to breakdown the script using a deep analysis that you might find in a literary book club (but this book club lasts for a month on the same text!) It’s during this time that we deeply explore the characters' intentions and the playwright's insights, and we start to craft what story we want to tell as actors, and what story we want to tell as a company as a whole.

So here I am sitting in dramaturgy for the Tony/Theresa date scenes, trying to desperately to seem calm, cool and collected. I had only gotten the diagnosis (by phone) 45 minutes before dramaturgy started and I was still in a bit of shock. (Click here to read about my diagnosis.) I was able to make it through the next few days without telling anyone and opted to make my big reveal to my theater company at our regular Monday night meeting.

Since then I’ve put my head down and worked tirelessly to bring these two plays to life. And the hard work has paid off - I’ve gotten some of the best reviews of my life for BOY GETS GIRL and audiences are raving about BOYS’ LIFE. (Scroll to the bottom to see what critics have said!) But I can’t help shaking the feeling that this is the last show of my “old life” - as soon as it closes I’ll be forced to contend with my new life where things will never be the same.

First and foremost - my hair. Chemo starts for me August 18 (read more here), and nearly all chemo that's used for breast cancer patients make them go bald. I have decided to do an experimental scalp treatment (Cold Caps) to try to stave off the hair loss, but even with that most people lose about 50% of their hair. I’ve built up a specific identity on stage and screen with the hair I have now. What will my “type” be once my hair is thinned or gone? As a person who coaches actors on “the biz” the unknown for my own career is almost crippling. And no amount of “you would look great with short hair/bald/a new style” makes me feel any better. I know people are trying to make me feel better by saying that, but that’s akin to saying, “He’s in a better place” when a loved one dies. It’s a generous sentiment, but the consolation is rarely enough.

In BOY GETS GIRL, my character Theresa is advised to change her name because of an unsavory admirer. It becomes a question of “Your Life or Your Name = Choose.” But her name is her life, because she is a writer who has built her life on her name. This is how I feel as an actor, having built my career on my look. Sure, Theresa can write under another name and I can act under another head of hair. Only those who know me well know how hard earned this particular look is. Here’s the short version:

Me as Cathy Hiatt in THE LAST FIVE YEARS
Such a similar photo as above!
I was asked to dye my hair blonde to do the San Diego premiere of THE LAST FIVE YEARS in 2004. I was a dark brunette, so a change like this was monumental. I was terrified but excited, and knew I could change it back if I didn’t like it. I finished at the salon and went to rehearsal, where the director proceeded to tell me that I didn’t have the right shade of blonde and they would have to wig me. I went into the bathroom and cried. Here I had changed my entire identity, and the director didn’t even like it! I cried all the way home and ran into my fiancé’s arms and told him my story of the day. After I calmed down, he turned to me and said, “We need to talk.” He then proceeded to end our engagement - a fitting thing to have happen a week before opening a musical about a breakup of a marriage. Through all of this turmoil my long blonde hair became a symbol for a new me. I was no longer the regular, brown haired mouse in the corner - I was a blonde, newly single, leading lady living in freedom. And it was that newfound fire that gave me the guts to finally make the move to NYC, which I did 9 months later.

Having to contemplate losing my hair brings all of my past rushing into the forefront. I have changed my look before and survived. But I have also built a successful life that I LOVE and I’m so afraid of what will happen when that changes. Will anyone see me as a musical theater leading lady with short stubby hair? Even if I don’t lose my hair, will I be able to work over the next 6 months when I’m not allow to dye my hair (hello, brown roots!) My hair is just one of the MANY fears and concerns I have as I deal with this disease, but it’s one of the scariest.

I also wanted to note: I think one of the hardest things in coping with all of these is dealing with all of the well wishers who work so hard to see the bright side. There have been dozens of people who have said, “You’ll look great bald!” but that doesn’t actually make me feel better - it makes me feel shallow for caring so much about my hair. Just like Detective Beck in BOY GETS GIRL (who says she knows that changing Theresa’s name will be “a hassle”) losing my identity and having to reshape it for my life AND my career is an intense and scary thing. And, damn it, if I’m going down I’m going down fighting. Bring on those frigid cold caps!

I don't know what this all means for performing, going forward. I am scheduled to do another show with The Seeing Place in November, but I don't know how well I'll be and I have no idea how I will look. The idea of not performing regularly kills me - it's my life blood and I want to hold onto it with all of my might.

So I count myself very lucky that I have been able to fill these past months with art to keep my mind at ease and build up mental strength for the coming months. I surround myself with incredible text by two tremendous writers, amazing actors who are giving their lives over to the audience each night, and our audiences who graciously allow us to tell them stories.

If you can make it out to see one of our last 4 performances you won’t be sorry. The show runs through August 2 - Fri & Sat @ 9pm, Sat & Sun 4pm. You can buy your tickets at www.seeingplacetheater.com/shows/6-boygetsgirl.html. Or... might I invite you to stay to see the whole program (my preference!)? Buy tickets to BOYS’ LIFE as well, which I directed: www.seeingplacetheater.com/shows/6-boyslife.html.

You can also buy tickets at the door. Our theater is located at 309 East 26th St (just east of 2nd Ave.)

Now... here are those reviews from the show...


Reviews from BOY GETS GIRL:

“Leading actress Erin Cronican gives a downright breathtaking performance as Theresa Bedell. Cronican gives Theresa a level of depth and complexity that is profoundly human – above all else, Cronican’s performance made this production real...” - Time Square Chronicles

"In this excellent revival, Erin Cronican (who not only plays the lead role in Boy Gets Girl but also directed Boy’s Life) is absolutely sensational as Theresa. She perfectly epitomizes the successful feminist in today’s world who finds herself forced to balance a variety of different relationships...Much of the success of this production must be attributed to her performance." - A Seat on the Aisle

“Erin Cronican [gives] a richly layered and naturalistic performance.” - Talkin’ Broadway

"Brandon Walker directs a tough and hard-hitting version of Boy Gets Girl, which stars Erin Cronican in a touching, dazzling star performance.” - Theater Pizzazz

"When it came to the storytelling of Boys Gets Girl, the way the mystery unfolded was breathtaking. And that is also partially due to the exquisite performance by Erin Cronican as Theresa. Cronican showed her vulnerability from start to finish, allowing you to want to see her become victorious despite the odds thrown against her. Cronican was dynamic and found a way to not be a victim." - Theater in the Now


Again, you can get tickets at www.seeingplacetheater.com/shows/6-boygetsgirl.html


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To read about my breast cancer story, click here. Some people have asked me how they can help. For you, I have created a post on my medical blog which will keep you updated on what kind of help I could use. You can find it by clicking here.


Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.

3 comments:

  1. I never knew you used to be a brunette!

    Erin, it's completely understandable for you to be scared, INCLUDING about the expected loss of hair. Best wishes for getting through this smoothly, and being able to get back to doing what you love (theater) as soon as possible.

    Harvey

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually do understand what you mean about deep seated fears, and they are not shallow nor vain nor any other negative word. Symbols are inherently powerful, and your blonde hair is a symbol. I think we try to be positive because it feels kind of wrong saying, that sucks. But it does. it all does, It is hell to go through, and who knows who you'll be on the other side of the trip?

    I can say your beauty shines through whatever happens on the exterior, and it does, but that and a dollar and you can get a coffee from a vendor. The Cold Cap sounds exciting to try, and I am glad you're trying it. You do what you need to do and If people judge, that says more about them than you.

    Thanks for being brave and honest. We need more of that in life. You're one of my rock stars. xo

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think it's vain at all. Look at how men react to losing their hair - and it's culturally expected for some men to lose it. It seems completely normal that you'd be upset. I'd be upset too! Thank you for updating. I hope this process as goes as easily as possible for you, and to see you on stage again in November - it's always a pleasure watching your performances.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting- YOU ROCK!


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