Wednesday was my last scheduled rehearsal before we leave for the UK this weekend. Monday we worked choreography in the studio for eight hours. Tuesday we put that new choreography outdoors in the park. Then Wednesday, Mary and I met in Park Slope, walked up to Prospect, synched our iPods and took off, side by side, running the new and improved show on its original stage.
The new material went fine, but some old material felt off. About a third of the way in, I did my headstand and pressed up out of it slowly, noticing that my arms didn't have the strength I remember. Later, in the wind sprints, I felt...winded. By the finale, several minutes of sustained race-pace running, my lungs and legs were on fire.
The show kicked my ass.
I was shocked. Where was my fitness? Where was my arm strength? Every performer knows you've got to have a bad rehearsal right before you open, but this felt different. What the hell was going on?
I figured it out quickly. The Prospect show is more physically challenging than any version of the show we've done this year. With only two days to scout and re-stage, there's only so much geographical area our team can cover. So, by default, the show gets smaller and the distances between scenes shrink with it. And as far as the upper body strength is concerned? Apparently that's the one T that didn't get crossed. We've mastered restaging. We've re-worked choreography. We've raised $45,000 and produced an international tour. But that fact that my handstand dismount isn't quite a given and my finishing kick appears to be on vacation? Well now.
It was humbling. A week to the London premiere and I feel like an unprepared weak-ass.
The decision was made before I made it: that wasn't my last rehearsal. No way.
I know my body. I know how fast it responds to exercise (fast) and how quickly my neuropathways would return to the deep grooves of body memory patterned in from performing this show upwards of 40 times now (like a boomerang). The Prospect version is the toughest I'll face. So if I've got that down, I'm ready for whatever the UK throws at me. I asked Mary to crew for me Thursday morning and set up rehearsal buddies for Friday and Saturday, too.
Thursday morning arrived and I made my way to the park. I saw the dark cloud moving in and was excited to rehearse in the rain like we'll almost certainly do in the UK. I met Mary at the picnic house and suited up just in time to hear the hugest thunder crack of my entire life. To call the downpour that unleashed itself upon Prospect Park 'rain' would be like calling the apocalypse a bummer. The storm was epic. I stood there, watching the deluge, feeling the anxiety rising.
We had iPhones for audio, no waterproofing capabilities on us and lightning streaking right above our heads. I looked at Mary. "We can't do the run."
The downpour lightened up enough for us to head home. I ran home in the rain trying not to listen to the sour voice chirping away in my head: "You're screwed. You're not ready and you won't be ready. All this work and you're going to fail. In London. At the Olympics. Way to go, Champ. Way. To. Go."
I got home and stretched for half an hour, thinking about what just happened and what to do next. I realized I'd pinned my preparedness on being able to run the show three more times. Was that true or just superstitious? Didn't matter. I had to let that go. You'll be ready when you're ready no matter how many times you run this thing. I analyzed what stopped me from doing the run that morning and determined it was because I didn't have my new UK-ready waterproof show armband and my tiny iPod Shuffle. I had a big awkward iPhone and I wasn't willing to drown an $800 piece of technology in order to rehearse the show. Okay. So you don't have the right equipment. Let that go, too. Let go of everything you thought you needed in order to do this thing.
Surrender, I told myself. Trust.
Then my friend Jeff reminded me of the greatest training montage of all time. The one from Rocky IV where Dolph Lundgren is tricked out with the latest technology, hooked up to VO2 max machines and crazy blood tests while Rocky is 100% lo-fi: running up mountains in knee-deep snow and shoulder pressing horse carts full of humans.
I fucking love that training montage.
I looked outside. The rain had stopped. Mary was long gone. I laced up my shoes, left my iPhone on the table, and walked the 40 minutes back to the start line. I'm going Rocky on this one. No tech. No crew. Just me, the park and the bone-deep knowledge I have and I am everything I need.
I rocked the living shit out of that run.
London? Let's do this.