I’m thinking about passion. Not sex. It’s seething excitement I’ve got on my mind, the kind of excitement that’s like breathing. Being bipolar, I have to carefully watch my moods. I can get carried away with things. I’ve started so many projects only to leave them unfinished. I have a book that’s half done. I have poetry that has won awards, but I’ve never submitted anything for publication. I act in community theater, and it feeds my soul.
Or, do I feed on it?
I just finished playing the role of a psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, in Equus by Peter Shaffer. I knew going into the production that it was going to be demanding. The play is told through the doctor’s interaction with a young patient. The doctor is on stage for the whole play. I had a heightened awareness of myself throughout the experience. I have seen enough psychiatrists that I knew how I wanted to portray this one. I’ve been inside mental hospitals and know the atmosphere first hand.
Acting triggers a heightened sense of self and my surroundings. I become aware in a very conscious way of my words and those of the other actors. I hear every cough from the audience. Their laughter is invigorating. During Equus, it was at times jarring. “I can hear the creature’s voice. It’s calling me out of the black cave of the Psyche,” so goes one the doctor’s lines in the play. What is calling me?
Right now in my life, I am passionate about acting and theater. I’ve been on stage for over 40 years. It frightens me. “The doubts have been there for years, piling up steadily in this dreary place” is another line of the doctor’s that resonates with me. I scrape by on disability payments. I keep my mental status a secret from all but a very small handful of close friends. I hear conflicting accounts from other people with bipolar about revealing their diagnosis. I’ve had bad results telling others about mine.
How long will the passion for theater remain at this height? I don’t know. My passion changes with the tides of my mind.