This is a line from The Frog Prince that I found resonating inside me at the strangest of times– during my audition for Penfold‘s production of Three Days of Rain. Without going into too many details, I will just say that this play is divided into two acts. The first introduces a brother and a sister and their best friend from childhood, and the second shows us their parents at the same age, thirty years prior. All the actors are double cast, and the two male leads are being played by Sean Martin and Nathan Jerkins. They were looking for an actress to play Nan (Act I) and her mother, Lina (Act 2).
I started with Nan. I’d worked this monologue a lot. Honestly, I was more confident in my Nan than in my Lina. Nan is the picture of normalcy, a Boston mother of two. Lina is described as “Zelda Fitzgerald’s less stable sister.” A Southern woman “who admits to thirty,” she is all fluidity and slurred Southern confrontation. Sometimes I get intimidated by big characters, especially when I haven’t spent much time with them. So I started with Nan. Because I thought I knew her better.
I was doing a monologue of Nan’s in a scene with Nathan. Nan is explaining how when her brother, Walker, disappeared for a year, she was so distraught that she barely slept, and mourned him, imaging horrible scenario after scenario that could have potentially befallen him. She describes how one day it just stopped. And she went back into life. And then she confesses that when she did hear his voice again, and knew he was okay, relief was not the emotion she felt.
Its a brutal monologue. And I was delivering it as such. But halfway through I noticed something in Nathan’s eyes. He was completely reacting as his character. And he looked slightly frightened.
We moved onto Lina. Who came out brash and slightly drunken(?), she seemed real to me though and my home state of Mississippi came out of somewhere within and she felt spirited and funny and alive. Of course, with auditions, you never can tell how good your performance was. Perhaps it was a disaster.
Ryan Crowder, who’s baby face belies a very sharp observer, took us back to Nan.
“Try it softer. Slower. She’s a mother. There’s a sweetness to her.” Something like that. He told me that my Lina and my Nan were blurring together somewhat. And suddenly, I thought “Its happiness. Its the fucking Frog Prince.” The story of the Princess in this version of the Frog Prince at Scottish Rite, as written by Heath Thompson, is that of a lonely child, betrothed to a Prince she finds repellent. She is miserable and renowned as a “brat” until the Frog starts asking her the questions about happiness that she has never before considered. It is only when she finds happiness in that friendship, that she considers the feelings of others and becomes able to find love. I realize that this is a goddamn kids play, but the happiness theme suddenly washed over me.As I said Nan’s lines again with that awareness, this time what came through was a sadness and a resignation and a weariness. I realized as I walked out of the Fine Arts Building at St. Ed’s that I didn’t know Nan at all. Because I approached her from where my emotions are operating from – which, while I won’t say I’m unhappy (“hey, I’m happy” -Princess Abigail), I know that I’m not the same as I was before B and I broke up. My heart isn’t fully available to me. I think of it as being like Hans Solo at the end of Empire. Frozen, but not dead. But its been gone for so long now though that I didn’t have it there for Nan. I didn’t even think to look there. I read that monologue and just heard the cynical parts in it. No wonder Nathan was frightened. And god, it made me sad to know that. Which is what I was feeling when I said Nan’s words that second time.