Hi my name is Addison
Russel puts his hand on her face.
Hi Addison, I’m Russel, remember me? Everything will be ok Addison.
The Overseer seems confused, suddenly starts crying.
Russel...Russel? Please help me. My name is Sabrina Kern. I don’t know what’s going on anymore.
Russel and Addison hug, both in tears now.
How? How can I help you? What can I do?
The overseer suddenly, as if in a trance, wakes up and looks at Russel puzzled..Holds out her hand for him.
Hi, my name is Addison. Who are you?
aaand “CUT” – the director yells, his voice slicing through the tension in the room.
Sounds like a scene from a movie with Russell and Sabrina being two thoroughly involved actors and comitted scene partners. Right? They work powerfully off of each other and are incorporating all the notes from the director, some of which they were told just minutes before and there’s a camera man standing just inches from their faces…Except…Not. This is not a movie, there’s no camera man, and one of them is not even an actor. In fact, for one of them this is REAL. Or maybe..just maybe..it’s real for both of them.
I was thinking about this essay for a long time. What angle do I take on to talk about this journey when I have so much to say and endless thoughts and stories running through my mind. Some would think it’s easy to write an essay on something you love so dearly, something that you did for 7 months straight, but it turned out to be much more difficult to find the right words. There’s so many things that are different about this acting experience than any of my previous ones. The one that stands out the most to me was the “blurring of lines”, which is what I want to talk about here. In my opinion, it’s one of the coolest aspects of immersive theater. I even feel weird calling this immersive theater, because the world that Darren Bousman created here is so much more than immersive theater. It’s art , it’s life, it’s a game, it’s a dream world and it’s pure chaos. And that description already embraces those blurring of lines. It’s art yes, it’s just a game yes, but it’s also actual life, the creation of an entire world that is oh-so-real to the participants, the actors and yes even the creators.
The scene above is one of countless scenes that I had the honor and pleasure to be a part of during my journey with Tension. There was constant wonder on the side of the participants wether this was real or “just” theater, just actors acting. And quite frankly, sometimes I wasn’t quite sure either. It almost became like a game between the creators, the actors and the participants. You never knew who believed what and what everyone was really thinking. But what was obvious is that everyone cared. Cared about the story, the world of tension and the characters of tension.
And having real people connect with the character you were given and watching them have real emotions because of that character is probably the most exciting, strange and beautiful things that can happen to any actor. Truly. There were times were I would get emotional myself because of the interactions with the participants. I don’t think they realize how much they impacted all of us too, it certainly wasn’t just a one way street. Again, they were like perfect scene partners and didn’t hold back. There were several times when grown men and women cried in front of me, because of me or with me.
As the this little scene above clearly shows, a part of that “blurring of lines” was breaking the fourth wall. This happened towards the very end of the run. Suddenly we started introducing Darren Bousman, Clint Sears and myself, the actress Sabrina Kern as actual characters in Tension. That is a weird and scary thing to do as an actor; To play yourself. Especiallyto Sabrina Kern. I actually feel very comfortable being other characters, I love it, I fully immerse myself in them and write character bios, make detailed decisions about who they are and what they want…everything an actor should do of course. But I am not neccessarily good at … being myself. It’s way scarier to me to just be “Sabrina”. My younger self used to absolutely hate to get in front of people, wheter that ‘d be in front of my entire class in middle school or simply answering a question at a big family gathering that my weird and slightly too loud uncle just asked me while everybody is staring at me. It was pure horror. THAT was my tension. But at the same time I would be jumping around on various stages in Switzerland in theaters and musicals and have no problem at all being the center of attention. Well luckily at some point little Sabrina figured out that the secret of speaking in front of people is to just be a character, don’t be yourself. And that’s where my personal journey of “blurring the lines” started. I realized I could just invent various characters that are somewhat close to who I actually am and then get in front of big crowds and start talking. And so I did. And it helped and by the end of it I didn’t even need to be an actual character anymore, just Sabrina, with maybe a few tweaks and adjustments in her self esteem but that’s it. So long story short when Darren told me I would be saying the lines “My name is Sabrina Kern” to participants that one cold day in the Production Office while I was eating a cold slice of pizza at the warehouse, only minutes before a performance, I was excited and ready for it but also terrified as soon as the words came out of my mouth. I had already been Addison for 6 months at this point and “Addy” has already invaded my real life in so many ways. She helped me to be more confrontational (in a good way – I hope. Buut let’s not ask the people closest to me..), more honest and more intense, I guess. But until that moment maybe I didn’t realize how much of Sabrina Kern is actual in Addison. And to be wearing that red dress (that btw the lovely Emilie Autumn found for me and Darren never even liked and I quote: “I don’t hate it. But I really really don’t like it”) and then say my own real-life-name was scary and emotional for sure. Later on when I got the chance to speak to some of the participants after everything was done, they told me that that moment was actually just as weird for them as it was for me. They had already known at this point (thanks to some research on their part) what my actual name was so they were quite shocked to hear me admit it after me trying to hide it for so many months.
The most emotional moment for me was during the “Finale” event when Addison took the gun to try and kill herself, saying she was now back in CONTROL. And Michelle telling her, in front of all these people, the participants I learned to love dearly, Darren and Clint, whom at this point I considered really close friends, “no you’re not Sabrina Kern, you never were”. A part of me died on the inside at that moment, because it was the final event and yes I was now “just” Sabrina Kern again. Not Addison, not overseer, not Gatekeeper 2, just Sabrina Kern. I proceeded to take off my red dress and put on my jeans, white tshirt and chucks and drove off into the sunset (no literally, I drove off into the sunset at the end). No more Addison.
But of course, I am ok with that. And I embrace it and love it. And I am forever grateful for having been able to play the part of Addison, the meek little girl from Ohio that moved to Los Angeles to be an actress but fell in love with the wrong guy and suddenly found herself being the leader of a cult. Of course there were so many more layers to that story, as you can tell reading through this book. It was the craziest journey I’ve ever been on anda little part of Addison will always be in my heart. And she will be there when I get to immersive myself into the next character. And I can’t wait to find out what or who that character
it is. I just know I will give it my all again and fall in love all over again…I have many more stories to tell.