Now, I have to admit that I always looked down on acting before I took my first class with my current acting coach/facilitator, because I thought that it was just a bunch of pretty people who wanted attention memorizing lines and getting on stage to recite them. Unfortunately, that’s still what a LOT of people think acting really is, and, yes, this does include far too many people who like to and manage to get parts in actual productions.
A dilettante is a person who claims an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. I have found recently that the majority of those in plays and on films are dilettantes who don’t even understand what the phrase ‘hard work’ means, let alone that acting is not an attention seeking endeavor. It is not about the actor, it is about the characters and the story and the action on stage/ in the film. The actor is remarkably unimportant.
Not only that, but it is very HARD WORK to be an actor. You must study, you must practice, you must focus, you must meditate, you must train every single muscle in your body, you must be consciously aware of everything that you do in life, you must perfect your recall, you must research, you must understand psychology / sociology / philosophy / interpersonal communication / etc., and, perhaps most importantly, you must be present in EVERY moment of your life at all times, moment to moment.
I have literally only been studying acting for almost two years, and I’m already catching up to people who have been studying for a decade or more. I have been working hard, and I believe that has made all of the difference. Now, I honestly don’t think much of my own abilities because I know that I have a long, long way to go and a LOT more work to do. Like figure skating, an actor can ALWAYS make improvements, learning to perfect their craft. Plus, there are still things in life that I have yet to experience, and they will better enable me to portray a particular character better, as a result.
The past semester, however, I received primarily compliments from my facilitator and from people who have been studying acting for quite a while. I keep hoping they will take the crap out of everything that I’m doing on that stage, but the compliments from people who don’t like stroking anyone have made me realize one very important thing: I have grown a significant amount in the past two years.
The only real downside to all of this is that I have not had much time for anything else. I have spent the semester in character for two entirely different plays (and two entirely different genders), while at the same time creating a ‘third’ new character for a new scene every two weeks.
Everyone in this profession says that this occupation is a lonely one (and I have heard the same about the writing profession), and now I understand why. Not only do you spend most of your time studying, bettering yourself, and, overall, working to improve your craft, but you also learn to really see people. The problem with learning to really see people is that, well… you get to know too much, in a sense.
All this being said, there is still a large aspect of acting that MUST be undertaken on one’s own, and so there have been weeks where I have just shut myself in my room so that I could get down to business doing character work and other forms of studying to get myself into whatever character I happen to be working on at the moment. I’ve been so immersed in this new art, in fact, that I have forgotten how I move, having changed my walk and my mannerisms for so many different characters in the past four months.
My vocal abilities have grown and so have my physical abilities. I played an elderly man in Arsenic and Old Lace during a three week run, and after every show I would strip off the costume and the make-up and ‘put myself back on’ only to greet people who had no idea I had even been on the stage. My closest friends and several people who see me in class every week had to ask me which character I had been playing. Now, if that’s not a compliment to any serious actor-in-training, I honestly don’t know what is. I have been unrecognizable this semester in so many different portrayals, and have been able to use some horrible situations in my past in a constructive way for the first time in my life.
Also, notably, for the first time in my life, no one is holding me back in any way, shape, or form. I have somehow actually managed to accidentally create a support structure for myself, drawing to me those who I most need in my life at any given point in time. I’m not sure how I do this, but it is most certain that I do. Apparently, many people born under my sun and moon signs and on the day of the month of the year I was born on have similar attributes, and I have been learning quite a bit about those as well. Learning to see both the bad and the good about myself, and accepting these things as who I am for maybe the first time in my life without allowing anyone to coddle me or tell me I can’t do this… it’s a major step for me.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly to me, is the sheer knowledge that before starting this training I did not really know how to play. I have said this often to people in my life, and I’ll probably say it yet again: I raised both of my brothers beginning at age eight. My parents were divorced, Mother was never around and wouldn’t let Dad anywhere near us (to hurt him, not because he was in any way harmful to us), and both of them were behaving like children rather than raising the three kids they actually had. So I did it.
My mother, being the crazy religious nut she has always been, would not let us believe in anything that required the remotest amount of imagination: Santa, fantasy, fairy tales, horror, dinosaurs, etc. Anything that wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the New King James version of the Bible could not possibly exist. As a result of this and several other notable events that I don’t like talking about, my childhood was rather stunted, and I grew up far, far too fast. I’m fine with this now, but I had to learn to surpass it.
It’s an incredible feeling, despite the horrible nerves and sickening anxiety that leads up to a performance, to be able to get onto that stage and actually be another character; someone else. To go out and play, giving life to someone that a writer imagined years, decades, or centuries before I was even born, is beyond breathtaking, particularly when you consider that no one has imagined this character the way that I have. Now, that is not to say that the character has not been portrayed similarly or even the same way that I’m portraying him or her, but, considering the fact that no one sees the world exactly the same way I do (in that we all have our own perspective, experiences, and things that lead us to where we are now), no one has ever seen this character’s point of view exactly the way I have. That’s… amazing, when you really stop to think about it; heady, even.
Anyway, this has been quite a long and rambly affair, but it is under a ‘read more’ tag for a reason. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Honestly, I know that my words are far less important to most people, and the largest majority of individuals that anyone meets at any given time don’t honestly care all that much about what those around them have to say on any given subject. So, anyone who cares what I have to say (particularly when I seem to have QUITE A LOT to say sometimes) has a unique place in my life, and I thank you for putting yourselves into it. Truly, a few of you here on Tumblr have been truer friends to me than anyone I have known in real life. I guess that’s one wonderful thing about the internet: we put ourselves out there completely without masks or pretenses. The only other place I have felt so trusted and able to trust is the stage, and I had to find that the hard way.
I hope you all have the loveliest lives possible, full of experiences and stories to tell. ^-^