And just like that, it's all over. After six weeks of rehearsals and four performances, it's time to say goodbye to Romy Schneider.
The last few weeks have flashed by in a blur. As we got closer to opening night, I did a lot of last-minute research. I spent hours with Romy's diaries and a German-English dictionary. I read about her break-up with Alain Delon, her break-through with the director Luchino Visconti, her tireless filming schedules. I watched more films, including Orson Wells' The Trial and the four-hour epic Ludwig - in which Romy played a very different kind of Empress Sissi under Visconti's direction. The closer we got to the first performance, the more desperately I tried to get inside Romy's head and understand her completely.
|Romy playing Empress Elisabeth of Austria ("Sissi") in Ludwig, 1972|
|I mmmmay have started wearing a lot of headbands after this production...|
There was a lot of discussion about what the strawberries symbolised. Some people said the strawberries were life. Others said that they were love. For me, the strawberries expressed the truth. Crushing the strawberries gave me a physical outlet for my feelings of anger and frustration: while I smiled and sang about the virtues of domestic life, my hands were telling the real story.
|Also, FYI, squishing strawberries is a lot of fun. Seriously, you should try it sometime.|
|So... many... strawberries...|
|Losing control at the end of Act 2|
If you're not familiar with this phenomenon, I should say that the post-show blues is a pretty common affliction. It happens to a lot of people, albeit not always to this extent. I guess it's a combination of exhaustion and grief. You put all of your adrenaline and stress into one project - and then you crash. You dedicate yourself to a show completely - and suddenly it's gone. There's a big empty space where it used to be.
|This is pretty much how I've been feeling all week.|
Luckily, I have new projects to focus on. And it's a good thing too. If I wasn't motivated to learn all this new music, right now I would probably still be in bed eating Nutella with a spoon.
As it is, I'm now trying to get back into a normal sleep schedule (staying up until 2 and sleeping in until 12 is no longer acceptable), and trying to get my energy up again with lots of exercise and healthy food. And I'm taking it all in. It's been a week since we finished the show, and it's only now that I'm beginning to see the whole picture. It's only now that I'm able to take a step back and reflect on everything I've learned.
|Tree... tree... tree... Oh wait, it's a forest.|
How can I put into words everything that I have learned from Romy? In many ways she was like me, in many ways she was completely unlike me. And in many ways she was everything that I aspire to be. Romy always lived in the moment - something which, as a chronic worrier and overthinker, I hardly ever manage to do. This was what made Romy such a powerful actress. Whatever she was feeling or being in that moment, she would throw herself into it completely. It's easy to see this from her diaries. Every time she started a new film she would say "this is the best film I have ever done", or "this is the best character I have ever played", or "this is the best director I have ever worked with". And for her, in that moment, it was. There was no past or future for her - there was only the present.
When I watch Romy in her films - especially her later ones - I get the feeling that she is not acting or playing a role. She is being the role. Every emotion, every bit of text, is completely genuine. This, to me, is what true acting should be.
|Romy in L'important c'est d'aimer, 1975|
|Channeling Romy's intensity onstage.|
As I say goodbye to this opera and to the actress who inspired it, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity this project gave me to grow as an actress and a singer. I will never forget the experience of playing Romy Schneider onstage. And I will never forget what Romy taught me: to give myself - my entire self, and nothing less.
All production photos courtesy of Emilie Lauwers