Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Enough: An Actor's Perspective

Welcome to part one of our Good Enough Blog Series. Leading up to the world premiere of Good Enough on May 14, we offer a weekly glimpse into the creative process behind crafting and staging a show that chronicles the true stories of five women living with depression or bipolar disorder. This week, we hear an actor's perspective: that of ETD Artistic Associate and Good Enough cast member Meredith Siemsen. (Click here to hear more from Meredith in an interview with Jessica Gimeno of The Balanced Mind Foundation's Flipswitch podcast.

Pictured: Actor Meredith Siemsen
Performing in Good Enough is a pretty special project for me…and one of the biggest challenges I’ve tackled in a while! I’m performing April’s story, and quite frankly I’m not sure I’m fully prepared. It’s a story of a girl my age whose past is riddled with pain, abuse, dramatic ups, impossible downs, near-endings, and new beginnings. This girl has seen it all. And I mean ALL.

But what makes this story so significant for me is that when I was little, April and I were best buddies. She lived in my neighborhood and was in my 1st grade reading group, “The Amtrak’s.” We sang songs from Annie together in her bedroom and pretended there were werewolves in her backyard. She even let me wear her favorite cloggs. April introduced me to mayonnaise and lettuce sandwiches (not bad, even without the tomato and bacon!), and the night before I moved away, she and I had a rendezvous in the field between our houses. We climbed a tree and hung our socks in the branches. I kept her 1st grade picture in my keepsakes box. I still have it.

April and I reconnected twenty years later on Facebook. She noticed something I had posted about NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and we started chatting. It was clear she had a story to tell… and I was willing to listen. It became a dream of both of ours to put her words on stage with the help of ETD. It occurred to me then that I might have the opportunity to perform her story myself… and two years later here we are. I am thrilled, honored, humbled, and pretty damn nervous.

When I talk to her on the phone and watch her on the videotapes she made for me during our initial interview I barely recognize the girl I once knew. She is a bizarre but delightful mixture of wisdom, anger, bewilderment, twisted humor, and motherly love. It took a great deal of courage for April to share her history with me, even more guts to spill it out for the world to see, and I will do my best to make her glad she did.
She and I talked on the phone the other day and she said, “If you want the costume I have it in my drawer.” I thought she was joking, and laughed. “No, I’m serious,” she said. There was an outfit she used to wear during her most troubled days: a t-shirt, XXL overalls, and converse tennis shoes. I have yet to mention it to Genevieve Thompson, our director, but if you see the show and I happen to be wearing a bizarre oversized outfit from the 90’s, it’s because April would have.

Good Enough is sponsored by Rebecca's Dream and runs May 14, 15, 21 & 22 at 7:30pm at Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theatre. We hope you will join us! For more information, click here.

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