The dressing room situation for this most recent show was "basic" to say the least - one large room for all the women and, unlike larger theatres where every dressing room comprises what amounts to multiple walls of both full-length and lighted makeup mirrors, there were in fact no mirrors anywhere except those erected for the occasion by wig and makeup in their area, and a small mirror over the sink in the small, communal bathroom. Consequently, I never really caught sight of myself except in passing, and certainly not the constant reflection of my costumed self that I would have had sitting waiting for my entrances in a typical mirrored dressing room.
It's only in looking at the photographs taken yesterday - and finally getting a chance to look at some of the production shots - that I realise how much I must normally be using those visual cues as part of The Process of preparing for a show, however subliminally. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm no "method" actress (quite the contrary, in fact - my training means that I'm very much steeped in the "technique" tradition of the British stage!) and the thought of consciously "using the mirror" to create the character is something I've never even considered - but it's only now that I'm realising what a big part that visual feedback must play in how I understand and perceive what I'm creating, and I'm sure it has some kind of impact on the choices I make onstage.
In seeing both the onstage shots and the snapshots from backstage, I now see how differently I looked than I felt; seeing the pictures shows me how much the makeup, wig, costume and, indeed, my own carriage and bearing underneath those items created a far more period and elegant-looking character than I was aware, since I was preoccupied with the comedic elements I had been asked to do (read: pratfalls and some stage "shtick" which had been developed for the character). To be frank, I looked so much more elegant than I FELT that it was almost a shock to realise! And, of course, this now explains why nobody seemed concerned about my performing the "elegant lady" side of my character .... since in many ways it had already been done for me by the "externals". Without the visual feedback to imprint this on my own mind, I was quite unaware of it.
The cliche of the actor talking to the mirror "getting in character" will never be the way I'm comfortable approaching my performances, but there's certainly no harm in using visual feedback intentionally, so.... Note to self: from now on, make sure I really get a good look at myself and process what I see there, however narcissistic it may seem. It's not "vanity", but a part of the technique!