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Playing Portia

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Nor for yours neither. You’ve ungently Brutus,



stole from my bed …

Ugh, I sound awful! I would rather be anywhere but the chapel in the big church complex. Our show is in two weeks and we still have some scenes to block, including this one. My jaw clenches in frustration. This is an important scene and I am going to let everyone down.



I should not know you Brutus. Dear my lord,



Make me acquainted with your cause of grief!
My voice drones on and I can feel myself squeezing out fake emotion. The scene goes on in this fashion. Me trying, and failing, to be a concerned wife and my scene partner, Sebastian, trying to fix the mess of Julius Caesar act II scene i. When it’s over, my vision becomes blurry with drops of emotion. The tears dribble down in a hot stream, and the room feels so cold I swear they could give off steam. I turn my head to look at our director, Julie. I wonder if she wishes someone else was cast as Portia. “Okaaayy.” Julie’s words come out in a long drawl, as if she was unsure on what to do. She asks us the usual question: “How did that feel?” even though we all know how that felt. Tears fill my eyes once more. I will them not to spill over, although they apparently have a mind of their own. I wish someone would say something, because this silence is pressing on my ears and pushing more doubt into my brain. Finally, Julie takes a breath and opens her mouth. “Why don’t we try it again, but don’t worry about the blocking. Just do what feels right with the emotion. And let’s raise the stakes a bit. Portia, you are pregnant and you don’t want to be. Go!” Wait, what? I was pregnant? How in the world was that supposed to help us? But, as they say, theatre is not a democracy. So I go with it. My footsteps echo around the room as I take my place behind the curtain. My cue comes, but instead of entering through the right curtain, I enter through the left. “Brutus, my lord!” I say as I cross to Sebastian. My voice is firm yet loving. Portia wants to know what is going on, because she knows Brutus has secrets he isn’t telling her.



Portia, what mean you?



It is not for your health thus to commit



Your weak condition to the raw cold morning.
The words fall easily off his tongue. As we get into the scene, the blocking comes naturally. We are no longer Sebastian and Lizzy, practicing a scene at 9:45 am. We become Portia and Brutus, arguing at 4:00 am. I kneel to show I am at his mercy. He offers me his hand, saying, “Kneel not, gentle Portia.” This could have been a truce, argument over. But Portia isn’t satisfied. I’m not satisfied. I still don’t know whatever he is hiding. I grab his hand and pull him down to me. The words come without a need to search for them.



To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed,



And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the suburbs



Of your good pleasure?

He could be using me. I am not his wife, I am his prostitute. And I am pregnant! I need a new tactic as well, so I yank my hand from his and start to leave.






If it be no more,



Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife.
But he stops me. I have presented a good argument, and I know what’s coming next.







O ye gods,



Render me worthy of this noble wife!



Portia, go in awhile;



And by and by thy bosom shall partake



The secrets of my heart.
I look into Brutus’s eyes and know he is being truthful. My task is done, so with a nod I leave. And as Brutus says the final line, I know we did it. A smile pulls at the corners of my lips as Julie’s voice breaks the quiet, “How did that feel?” Again, I think we all know how that felt. “Perfect. It was so, you know: just right,” I gush. I am can feel my face glow with the energy of relief and success. The pain and bad emotions this scene has caused me was worth it: just for this feeling. This is the reason people become actors. And I am now one of those people.



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