A full day in the life of ‘Fuddy Meers’ actor

Matt Stein ’18 describes his day in which he acted in the show “Fuddy Meers.” His day ranged from seeing his family, who flew in to watch the performance, to watching “Stranger Things.” / Courtesy of Sam Peterson

As a senior drama major who is involved with multiple orgs balancing life as an actor while maintaining my responsibilities, both academic and extracurricular, can be a bit of a hassle. Most of the time, it requires napping when I can and drinking an obscene amount of tea. But Thursday, Oct. 2, was a special day for two reasons. One: My show, “Fuddy Meers” opened today in the Shiva. And two: After flying in from Chicago, my mom drove up from New Rochelle with my uncle to visit Vassar to see my performance.

7:45 a.m.: The alarm went off, first with Herb Alpert’s “Spanish Flea” and then with “We’re All in This Togeth- er” from the “High School Musical” soundtrack.

9:00 a.m.: I made myself some double-bag ginger tea to help my voice for the performance.

9:30 a.m.: After quickly grabbing breakfast from Express, I met two of my classmates outside the Powerhouse Theater for DRAM 304 The Art of Acting: Classics. We were rehearsing a scene from George Bernard Shaw’s play “Major Barbara.” In this class, we’ve studied various acting techniques, including Stanislavski’s Method and Laban’s Movement Analysis, and performed scenes from Shakespeare and the Commedia dell’Arte.

10:30 a.m.: Art of Acting begins. Before we started the Shaw scene, each of us performed a “Universe” project, where we created what the world of our character is like. We’ve done these for several scenes already. For the Shaw scene, I played Andrew Undershaft, Barbara’s ammunitions manufacturing father, so for my Universe, I read the newspaper while Gustav Holst’s “Mars: The Bringer of War” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” played consecutively. After we each performed our Universes, we went straight to the scene. The professor, Shona Tucker, gave us notes and we restaged several parts. Then, Professor Tucker led us in a Michael Chekhov workshop. Chekhov created his own method of “Psychological Gestures,” where the actor uses external gestures to physicalize a character’s internal need. We performed several exercises that involved moving in a very expressive way.

1 p.m.: For DRAM 202 The Art of Theater Making, we were divided into groups with the intention of devising a presentation around various themes. Some people summarize Drama 202 as Drama 102 but on speed. In the past, we’ve looked at John Cage’s work, the Fluxus Movement, Bertolt Brecht’s concept of Gestus and the choreography of Pina Bausch. For this week’s presentation, we picked from a list of haiku and were supposed to explore our chosen poem through free association, incorporating different elements of time. My group chose one that went: “First crickets— / the pulse / in my wrist.” After free-associating about nervousness and exercise, we decided to stage the piece at Sunset Lake. We set the audience up on one side of the lake, holding a metronome. One member ran around the lake in exercise gear. We felt that the pulsations were similar to when two people meet. I stood on one side of the hill, clad in all purple, and another member of the group is dressed in yellow on the other side. The fourth member was dressed in a morph suit and acted like a cricket, instructing me to follow before rolling down a hill. Eventually, I met with the other member and we embraced. If any of this doesn’t seem logical or coherent, then we’re do- ing Drama 202 right.

3:15 p.m.: I headed to the Deece to do some work and review my lines. I made myself another round of tea: chamomile to calm my nerves. I also read some of “The Lee Strasberg Notes,” which are edited transcriptions from the famous acting teacher’s classes. It’s been a bit of a tradition for me to read an acting-related book before opening night to summon up the confidence that I can act.

4:15 p.m.: My mom and my uncle arrived on campus, driving up from New Rochelle. I showed them around the library, the location that first made me interested in Vassar and where I spend most of my time. Because my uncle is an alumnus of Vassar, he walked around with a sense of nostalgia that forced us to move very slowly as he recognized each differing detail that’s changed since he was a student. I often like to mention that this uncle was at Vassar at the same time as Meryl Streep and was actually an acquaintance of hers, so I enjoyed the little tidbits of information he gave about his experience, knowing Meryl probably experienced it too.

4:45 p.m.: The News Editor of The Misc, Laurel, and I lead a transcribing interview workshop with The Miscellany News’ distributors.

This isn’t usually one of the responsibilities of an editor, but we’re here to help.

5:05 p.m.: Even though call time wasn’t for another hour, I got to the Shiva to review my lines and read some of Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass” to boost my self-confidence for the performance. I also scheduled an interview for the next day for one of my Misc articles.

6:00 p.m.: By then the rest of the cast and crew had arrived. We got into costume. Because I had a costume change, I arranged my clothes to easily get dressed.

6:15 p.m.: Fight calls. Because the show involved several fights, grabs and falls, we were supposed to hold a fight call before we perform so nothing goes wrong and nobody gets hurt. Because our fight choreographer is in “Caesar Noir,” a Merely Players show that took place the same weekend, another actor and I ran the fight call, going through each routine slowly first and then at full speed.

6:30 p.m.: Warm-ups. As a cast, we included a variety of warm-ups to help with concentration, voice and movement. Oftentimes we play theater games like “Wah!” I like to lead a vocal warm-up of “Lolita,” which consists of the first few lines of Nabokov’s novel, to help with enunciation.

7 p.m.: With the house doors open, we waited in the dressing room for the show to start. Even though the show time did say 7 p.m., performances traditionally start five minutes later to allow for latecomers.

8 p.m.: Intermission. The first act of the play was extremely hectic. Because it was a Thursday show, the audience wasn’t as large, but they were still very responsive. I managed to hear my uncle’s distinct low chuckle in one of my scenes.

8:45 p.m.: We took our bows, and the show was over. We still had three more performances to look forward to before the post-show blues set in. My family hugged me. My mom, who flew from Chicago, hadn’t seen me perform since I was a sophomore in high school, so this moment was pretty significant.

8:50 p.m.: I showed my mom and uncle my TA. One of my costumes pieces is a bathrobe, which I use every day in reality, so after every rehearsal and performance I lug it back home. They got to bear witness to the piling up clothes, papers and books in my room. It’s not that I abhor cleanliness, it’s just that this week was so busy that every time I entered my room, I simply took what I needed and went on my way.

9 p.m.: My mom and uncle treated me to Acropolis Diner food, which was very enjoyable after such a physically demanding performance. I had an order of mozzarella sticks and an omelet with feta. It’s very obvious that I love cheese. It’s the best ingredient in the ideal late night meal.

10 p.m.: My family dropped me off in front of my TA. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to show them my messy room. My mom tends to get very emotional with goodbyes so I gave her a long hug and promised to call her in the morning when she’s back in Chicago.

10:30 p.m.: I began watching Season Two of “Stranger Things” and fell asleep out of exhaustion to the synth-tuned soundtrack filling my ears.

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