There are so many traits and events in Ismene’s life that are so personal to me, so playing her should be easy, right? The answer is not that simple. Ismene’s life is her own, and cannot be burdened by my own personal struggles. In the Dream Theatre style of acting we have this saying “raise up into the character, do not bring them down to you”. Jeremy taught me this and though it seems to be a simple phrase, it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I will say that in the past 8 years that I have been part of Dream Theatre I am continuing to explore and strive to understand and implement this particular part of our method. When acting, it is easy to get caught up in my own personal emotions, my own personal dramas and stresses and especially my own personal fears. It is so tempting to take a character’s revelations or catharsis and pull my own emotions into it so I can get the feeling of that revelation or catharsis for myself. If I feel all my own emotions of stress, fear, sadness and joy and put them into Ismene, then it will not let the audience feel these things, it will not be for them, it will be for me.
The most amazing discovery I have made in acting happened in Dream Theatre when I found those moments of completely letting go of Anna and raising up into Ismene. In 2008, when I played Ismene for the first time, I was so terrified. I thought, “How can I ever live up to this girl? She is so smart, strong, brave and innocent!”. And then it happened it wasn’t about living up to her; it was just knowing her and admiring her. And the magic moment happened not when I felt Ismene’s feelings in front of the audience, but when I introduced what I knew and admired of Ismene to the audience. And for the first time, I felt the audience raise up with me. And the most amazing thing about that is that I did get to feel personal joy. It wasn’t my feelings that went into Ismene, but her feelings and the audience’s feelings that went into me.
This time around, when we started and I knew I wanted to play Ismene again, I had all these other motives and agendas that I wanted to put on Ismene. But again, what does this accomplish? Who does it inspire? So again, I remind myself, Ismene is not for me. We joined with this production as part of a world-wide community of theatre makers to raise awareness and hope for those struggling with their fate of having breast cancer or having a loved one with breast cancer. And I say that Ismene is for you Audience, I am committed to introducing you to Ismene along with Rachel as Procne, Alicia as Philomena, Mishelle as Erin and Annelise as Iphegenia so that you can find the inspiration, courage and hope to fight against the wrongs of this world that steal away innocence. Then when we leave the story and go back to our lives, we find that we have all “risen up”.