Acting the Part: Emotions and Diabetes

Emotions and Diabetes. Not my favorite topic. Even before being diagnosed with diabetes, I was accused of being overly sensitive, overly emotional, chewing the scenery, being over the top.

Actors are a strange breed. We train ourselves to be hypersensitive to every nuance. What did you mean by that? What is really going on? We observe others, noticing slight variations in vocal inflection, stance, gesture. We observe ourselves. Where is my wrist, my foot, my shoulder? On this word, what is the pitch, the pronunciation of this vowel, this consonant? By opening night, it's become part of who we are under the lights, along with the costume, the makeup, the blocking and all those words. The audience rarely notices, not consciously. They aren't supposed to notice. The art, the craft of theater is to construct an illusion so seamless that for the moment it seems real.

We have another tradition, as well. Outside problems are left outside: the fight we just had, worries and insecurities, illness and death are left behind once we cross that invisible line.

I've been an actor longer than I've been a diabetic. In fact, it was during a production of Mary Gallagher's Chocolate Cake (finally thin enough to believably play someone with an eating disorder) that I was diagnosed with LADA. Being an actor has helped me adapt to being diabetic. Every performance is different. A line gets blown; the scenery falls down; the problem is solved and the show goes on. Each night we start again. Act I, scene 1. On this line, I stand here; on this I sit; here I give you my hand. Striving for perfection, yet knowing I'll never attain it. When the stage manager calls, "Ten minutes," I test my blood sugar, double-check my CGM and silence it. After certain exits, I'll test again. I know where my glucose tablets are stashed backstage. It's all part of the discipline that creates the illusion.

Diabetics also live an illusion. Everything is fine. Everything's under control. All I need to do is yada yada yada. That and the double pirouette, the jump onto the table and, oh, yes, the sword fight at the end of scene 6. Easy. Effortless. Hamlet performed on a high wire. It's what the public demands. It's what we deliver night after night after night, as long as this show runs.



Too True!!