Tomorrow is first rehearsal of my next project, Lombardi at Aurora Theatre. I always get nervous before first rehearsal. I always have and I always will. This time, I’ve channeled some of that nervous energy into housework (not that you can tell), and the rest into research on my role.
I’m about to play Marie Lombardi, wife of the famous football coach for whom the Superbowl trophy is named. (I learned that in my research. That’s how little I knew.)
The play by Eric Simonson is based on the book When Pride Still Mattered – A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. I read the book – all five hundred pages – and learned a great deal about both Lombardi and football.
I had to do this, because I was not raised in a football family. The only time I remember seeing football on my parents’ black and white TV was when guests were over for major holidays and somebody wanted to follow a game. My dad was a Georgia Tech man, so I knew who to root for (Tech, and whoever was playing Georgia), but I knew absolutely nothing about football, and there was no-one in my house who could teach me.
In junior high I tried out for cheerleading because it seemed like a cool thing to do. I made the squad, mostly because of my ballet background and acting experience, which made it easy for me to learn the routines and yell really loud. I was not a natural sports fan. The other girls had to teach me what was going on. If it hadn’t been for them I would surely have made a greater fool of myself than I actually did.
Having broken my foot two days before the first pep rally (don’t ask), I spent the entire football season on crutches. But I cheered anyway, to the best of my ability, and moved on the following year to my natural habitat, the high school drama club, and thence to my eventual career.
Which brings me to the present moment and my dramatic need to understand the game of football. I’m a serious actor, so I attacked the challenge with my usual zeal. I was feeling rather cocky about the depth of my research when I realized that, as much as I’d read and Googled and looked up on youtube, I hadn’t actually watched any games.
So, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I sat down with my husband and daughter to watch the annual grudge match between the Universtiy of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
It did not end well for my team. As Lewis Grizzard wrote in his column on one of the rare occasions when Tech beat Georgia, “I don’t want to talk about it.” But I learned something: when you know even a little bit about football, it becomes deeply engrossing. And when you care about the outcome, it can become all that matters.
Bright and early tomorrow morning, I will walk into rehearsal, knowing at least that much. For the coach’s wife, that may be a pretty good start.