Acting Like Real People

Whenever I do a first read-through for Population 485: On Stage, I tell the actors and director very little about the background of the play or the real-life people behind the roles I’ve written. This is primarily an issue of professional respect: The actors don’t need a writer telling them how to proceed in their chosen and practiced craft. I want to allow them to discover and inhabit the roles on their own, without me pushing them toward mimicry or impersonation. Mostly, I just want to get out of their way. Give them room and respect to work in the work they’ve chosen.

But just before we begin, I do tell them this: Every line of this play, every story–even in those instances requiring abbreviation or a composite character–is drawn from an actual human being who felt real joy. Real despair. Real pain. How you interpret the lines is up to you, I tell the actors and director, but every time you step onstage, remember: this story was born of real hearts beating.

It’s tricky, because the play veers from horrific tragedy to goofball fun. I fear inadvertently injuring someone’s feelings in either direction. I took comfort then, when I awoke this morning and read the post below by our director Jake. It is good to know that this play–and its people, its real people–are in the hands of someone who knows both vulnerability and courage.


This picture represents a lot. – It’s no secret that today is my 11 year anniversary of my AVM. When it occurred, I was performing on the Kjer Theater stage, in the Downstage Left position (wait–isn’t that the name of a theatre company? Gasp!). Many of my nearest and dearest were in the seats watching it happen before the local fire and rescue crew arrived to help. – Tonight, I sat through a dress rehearsal for a show I am directing–my first big break as a director, and I got giant goose bumps as my best friend, in character, stood in a dramatic scene on the very spot I had my AVM, as other close friends, portraying fire and rescue workers, played out the scene trying to save a life. The symbolism was strong for me. It’s always a tough scene to watch as it is so heavy and performed so beautifully, but tonight my personal experience and connection to the space added weight. – I don’t post these posts to draw attention or to receive sympathy. I celebrate this day vocally as a reminder to myself how damn lucky I am. Damn lucky to be alive, yes–but, SO damn lucky to be alive in the life I have. The people in my life are everything to me. The experiences I have shared with those nearest and dearest are why I fought and continue to fight. Today is a celebration for me, not because I didn’t die (well, there is that), but because of the reasons I have to live. Thank you for letting me have my day, every year.

A post shared by btjake1 (@big_tall_jake) on

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