Roy and His Music

Vietnam Soldier.jpg

Roy is my fictional husband. I'm expanding my comfort zone (terrifying yet exhilarating) and appearing in my first big play in a few weeks. Well, I had a small part in Calendar Girls, which was nerve-wracking enough, but this new play runs about 45 -50 minutes and I'm on stage the whole time. Which means lots of dialogue and blocking to remember. Which means nerves on a whole new level. It's only local community theatre but, in this community, everybody knows everybody else, so I won't be able to hide behind a bad performance. If I suck, everyone's gonna know it. There will be whispering behind my back. Guaranteed.

I figure my fictional hubby has it a lot worse than I do. So I can buck up and do the best I can without worry of any serious consequences. So many crappy things are happening in our world today that it's easy to put local theatre into perspective. Take Roy - sure, he's not real, but there were / are many 'real' Roys out there in the world. Indeed. Men (and women) who are fighting wars and, as a consequence, are being exposed to drastic images they are not wholly prepared to see. We see enough of those images - you know the ones - from war-torn countries. But there's a screen between us and them. To soldiers? Nuh-uh. No such luck. No screen. What they are seeing is the real deal.

In my play, Roy comes home after a two year stint in Vietnam to a country torn apart by its feelings about participation in the conflict. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has not been identified and named, which would have made it real. Yet, despite the lack of concrete acknowledgement, anyone who knows a soldier who spent time on the front is keenly aware that PTSD exists. Unnamed.

My Roy can't hold a job. He gets in fights and gets fired. He says his hometown has changed. Has it? Nah. He's the one who has changed. He got shot up in Vietnam. He is a young man. But he comes home an old man, forever haunted by a mind-blowing experience he could have done without. His wife, Elizabeth - my part - is keenly aware that her man is hurting, but she doesn't know how to help him. She longs for him to be the way he used to be, for their lives to live under the technicolour haze of true love and happy times. Instead, she is lost in wistful remembrances of the past, when she and her best friend rode around like queens in Roy's pride and joy, a 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible.

The play, Laundry and Bourbon, is a challenge for a non-actor like myself (let me re-phrase that - for a beginning and inexperienced actor). I'm going through all the usual self-esteem hits…what are the others thinking? How bad do I suck? But I refuse to dwell on those things. If us women didn't give ourselves a good solid knock on the noggin once in a while and remind ourselves that we are worthy and good and that it's okay to try new things despite the fact that we might suck, well, we'd stay inside all the time with the shutters drawn and the lights dimmed, watching Nashville or Downtown Abbey re-runs every night. I'm Aries, I want to try new things, and I've always wanted to act, sooooo….here goes. Like it or lump it.

As a newbie with a serious music sensibility, I spent some time creating a playlist to help 'get me where I need to be' emotionally, in order to play Elizabeth as best I can. I found this list:



I added many of the tunes on this list and, as a result, had some time to think about the songwriters and musicians involved in the creation of this music. Let's take Bob Dylan, for example. As a kid, I went to girl guides on Friday evenings. I LOVED the end of each gathering, when we plugged in our electric campfire and sang campfire songs. We sang 'Blowin' In the Wind' every Friday evening, and I thought it was pretty, but did I care about the lyrics? Not much. In my defense, I was twelve. But I knew there was SOMETHING about the song that caught me in the gut. Yesterday I listened carefully and I heard a completely different song. This time it was being sung by a grown man whose pain I could almost feel (and my Roy was in there somewhere), instead of by a group of pre-teens whose whole lives lingered lovingly, hopefully, in front of them. 'Blowin' In the Wind' has become a whole new song. Good 'ole Bobby D.




Collectively, the songs on my Laundry & Bourbon playlist are cause for solemn reflection. Musically, they tell a daunting story, of ruined lives and aching guts and nightmares and hopelessness. I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of war. My heart aches for the John Lennon version of life (Imagine? Give Peace A Chance?), but the world is too damn complicated to take us there. Heck, all of us fight, on some level. How do you get entire countries to get along? Still...

So, being the visual thinker that I am, it's easy to picture my Roy as the young soldier in the image at the top of this page. The fear in the boy's eyes is haunting. He ain't no actor (I don't think - correct me if I'm wrong). He's the real deal. Wonder who he is / was. Wonder if he is still on this planet, or - if his innocence long since departed yet his body remains.

Music is a history lesson. My L & B playlist is now a working body of thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears and accountability and violence and riots and refuse. And longing. Elizabeth wants her husband back 'the way it used to be'. The lesson I am taking out of this play? Cherish my man. Take care of him. Be grateful. Cherish my place on this planet. Pray myself and my loved ones NEVER experience the pain and futility of war. My son turned 24 yesterday and I sent him his birthday cake via an instagram pic. I hated that I had to blow out the candles instead of him. But then I drove off to rehearsal accompanied by the music of the Vietnam era. I longed for my fictional husband. Then I came home to my real partner while, across the country, my son celebrated with craft beer and a group of caring and jovial friends.

And, despite the ache for my fictional Roy, and all like him, my heart was glad.