Monday, January 19, 2015

Once More, with Feeling…


Published 1/19/2015


I’ve been a tad preoccupied lately because in addition to work and various side projects, I’ve been in the midst of rehearsals for my first LA play. I’ve made a few attempts to venture into the world of live theatre before, but this time I managed to snag a small part in a rave version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m not delusional enough to believe that I can actually make it as a stage actor; I need all the smoke and mirrors and editing that come with performing on camera. The Bard is my jam however and Midsummer is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. Aside from Shakespeare’s other work, the only other play I’d be down for is Patrick Marber’s Closer.

Our run hasn’t started yet, but it’s already helped me grow as an actor in a multitude of ways. At the risk of sounding like a drama geek, opening up the text, and doing it with other artists who care about the work is a game changer. Like, there is subtext in Shakespeare for days. DAYS! I’ve also begrudgingly admitted to myself that it’s actually a good thing that I didn’t get the part that I wanted when I auditioned. The actress who was best for the role got it, for the good of the production. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to come to that conclusion, but only by being realistic about my strengths and weaknesses as a performer can I increase my versatility and range. Sigh.

My theatrical debut also happens to coincide with what I’ve unofficially labeled as “The year of feelings.” Habitual readers of my blog and people who know me are aware of my hatred for abbreviations and unnecessary urban colloquialisms, but for the purpose of discussion I must use one today. “In my feelings” ostensibly means that one is overcome with emotion and too rattled by internal trauma to function. This phrase has been in constant use in recent months and drives me absolutely mad because you can’t be in your effing feelings! Feelings are not a place with a zip code or longitudinal coordinates! However, if one could in fact be in one’s feelings, I must admit that is a place to which I rarely traverse.  I really, really do not like to express my emotions. I’ve made a career of remaining as aloof and enigmatic as possible. I’ve never bought into the notion of crying to get my way or whining or pouting to manipulate people simply because I’m a girl and I can. I instead have gone the route of remaining tight-lipped and keeping everything to myself the majority of the time. I’ve never cried at a movie, I don’t cry when people die or get married. I’ve never been fond of telling anyone including my family members that I love or miss them. I always feel myself instinctively pulling away when people I actually like want to spend more time with me. I jokingly say that I have a problem with intimacy, but seriously, I have a heart of stone. I’ve also gotten very good at compartmentalizing due to various life events, which really doesn’t help matters.


I realized several years ago however that my refusal to emote and be vulnerable in my real life has had a crippling effect on my chosen profession. How can I be an actor who refuses to be emotional? How do I use emotional memory if I try to squelch everything I feel for fear of being a typical girl? How do I even fake a feeling that I won’t allow myself to have for fear of looking weak? I’ve been fighting this knowledge for years, but I decided that in 2015 I would venture into “my feelings” come what may, even if it results in mascara-stained cheeks and laughing at inappropriate times. This year, I’m allowing myself to act out. Part of the reason I censor myself internally so much is because emotions are messy and time consuming. I like order and control and efficiency and I am loathe to become another 20something actress who dramatizes every situation no matter how big or small or insignificant.

Over the course of Midsummer rehearsals I’ve already witnessed impassioned protests about why lines should not be performed a certain way and flat-out refusals about entrances and character motivation because it “didn’t feel right.” Acting on feelings is not something I’m good at or comfortable with, but one can’t act without feelings, so I suppose I had better start getting uncomfortable.

The reason that Midsummer and Closer resonate with me is because sadly, I identify with Helena and Alice far too much. When I still believed in love, I had a penchant for being attracted to people who didn’t reciprocate, or at least not as much as I would have liked them to. The first time I saw Closer and heard Alice say “I amuse you but I bore you,” I felt a pang in my chest because there was a time when that was my dating life in a nutshell. That is to say, I felt the pang and then shoved it away. But no more of that.

I’m going to stop biting my tongue, allow myself to be egged on, and stop sending passive aggressive texts to people. I’m going to be “aggressive aggressive.” Before this resolution, I wouldn’t let things like my possibly gay pseudo-ex contacting me after four years, friends who don’t make half as much effort as I do to keep in touch or not getting important callbacks bother me. Well now I'm allowing myself to be bothered. I’m going to wallow if I feel like it and conversely, I suppose I will allow myself to be giddy if the occasion calls for it. I am going to shed tears without thinking less of myself for doing so. Hopefully this will result in me becoming a more sensitive, dialed in, nuanced actor, and not just a weepy mess who uses nonsense phrases that can only be found in Urban Dictionary.