But as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, every night I have to crawl into that dark hole. I have to take the time before the lights dim, to commit to the idea that I, Willy Loman, am going to kill myself.
I've always intellectually understood suicide. I've experienced it as a family member and friend of others who have committed suicide. But it's never been part of my DNA. I'm in favor of assisted suicide for the terminally ill (that makes sense to me, (rather than a prolonged and pointless suffering). But personally - I really, really like breathing and all that comes with it. The laughter, the tears, the pain, the pleasure.
Death of a Salesman is a three hour play. I need at least two hours before the performance to prepare, and at least two hours after to decompress. That adds up to seven hours every performance night that I am wallowing in contemplation of my (Willy's) suicide.
Ultimately even Willy is only able to make the commitment by lying to himself - by convincing himself that his death will benefit his favored son. Every night, Willy walks resolutely off to his own demise, simultaneously pleased and disturbed, proud and afraid of the decision he has made.
From the first line of the first scene, Willy is considering his own death. That colors the delivery and shape of every word Willy speaks, every event and person he dredges up from his imagination and memory, every reaction he has to what happens around and to him.
I guess I'm not making this sound like a 'fun' performance to attend - and fun is not really what we are aiming at. And yet - there is an exhilaration that comes from exploring so intimately the darkest thoughts of this iconic American stage character. And my fellow actors are so good - they push and push and push back at me (at Willy). Every night they make me see a line, a word, a scene in a different light.
It's a hell of an experience.