The last time a tried out for a play I was in junior high. My school was going to perform Pinocchio, and I decided that I wanted to be Geppetto. I remember standing on stage with about six or seven other people in a group audition. They told us to act like we were building our wooden son. The directors were laughing at me, and in my head I knew I had the competition beat. The next day after they had posted the names of the cast, I saw that I had not been chosen for the part and was quite disappointed. Later, one of the directors had told me that I was perfect for the part and the best one on stage. “It was just that…well…we were looking for someone a bit taller.”
Since then I hadn’t really been presented with many opportunities to act. But after watching a series of short plays performed by my friends last year I thought that if another opportunity like that ever came around again, I would at least try-out for it. Getting involved in the Gwangju community is one of the cool things about living here. If there are a group of people passionate about something and are willing to put the time and energy into it, people will show up.
So on a Sunday afternoon I did my best to read some lines in front of my peers. Again I thought I nailed it. They were laughing, nodding their heads, smiling…it just felt good. I left the audition feeling confident, but in the back of my head had doubt. It sounds silly, but I worried that maybe they would prefer a taller person over me.
A few days later I talked to my good friend Adam who was directing one of the plays. He told me that he wanted me to play the lead role in his play, Denmark Kills. It was an exciting moment, but immediately I was struck with fear that I had to memorize about fifteen minutes worth of dialogue. I had never thought of myself as very good at memorizing things, I just jumped into this project and thought it would be a great experience and I’ll worry about the lines if I got the part.
The play itself is called Denmark Kills, and I was Denmark. It’s a dark comedy about an artist who had a date with a big crush of his, Naomi Winter, who happens to be a famous actress. During the course of the date Denmark kills Naomi. The play starts the next morning with Denmark wondering about how a beautiful actress could be dead in his apartment. Denmark doesn’t realise that he’s the killer. And it’s only after talking with Naomi (yes, she’s dead but can talk to him somehow ) that not only does he see the knife that killed her, but that he had fallen in love with her. Sound a little strange? Well it is. But it’s a great story that’s wonderfully written. It’s not just about a murder. In fact it’s mainly about the idea of fate, free will, and love. It just so happens that the person Demark loves is dead….and he killed her.
So starting in October Adam, two actresses, and I got together to practice the play. It was so fun getting to know the three of them and just feeling like I can be myself. Soon came our dress rehearsal. I was excited about performing our play for the rest of the cast in the different plays. But when it came time I ended up blanking on a line. Luckily the female lead in my play was able to cover for me and we got us back on track. But doubt started to fill my mind about the performances. I had practiced for hours upon hours and I had it down pat when it was only us four. Why was I blanking in front of the audience?
Finally opening night came. I took some time by myself backstage to prepare. And when the lights dimmed I took my place. As I walked to my spot in the pitch black I heard a familiar voice whisper, “David Cowger!” And as the lights came up I saw many of my friends sitting there. Shaking it off I began the play, “This is not a good morning…” It felt good as the crowd chuckled at the funny parts or were completely silent waiting for the next line. After the first performance and not botching a line the three of us celebrated in the back by silently cheering as the next play started. And we couldn’t wait for the next five performances.
Acting in the play has been one of the most memorable and meaningful parts of my time here. I challenged myself, faced a fear, and really put myself out there. And just like any sport that I’ve been apart of there was a real sense of comradery. That we were all in this together. That we had each other’s backs. It was a wonderful experience filled with wonderful people.