Acting (my heart hurts)


Last week I went home for a week. Sometimes I forget how much I miss my family until I see them again and it all comes back- I didn’t want to return to Chicago. Not because Chicago is so terrible (though there are some parts I’m finding I hate as much as I love other parts) but because it’s so far. Only seeing everyone a couple of times a year is hard.

I came back out of sorts and restless, it didn’t help that my flight had been canceled and there was all that annoyance around getting back. Jumped straight into working both jobs, gotta hit the ground running. Gotta make-up for lost shifts at work. (absolutely exhausted- physically, mentally, and emotionally) Did a Meisner class on Sunday to cover the one I missed on Tuesday and then to my current improv class/show that night.

It was awful. I felt like walking away from acting by the end. I doubted my ability, my possibilities, my aptitude, my training/experience, myself. I not only left feeling like a failure at improv but also as a person. It was a of pain deep inside. Not the acute, “I can’t believe I did/said/whatevered that on stage”. I get those, they fade pretty quick. That is just (just. Hah!) shame and embarrassment. A sharp, stinging failure. But like a slap I’ve found that normally a good night’s sleep will get rid of that. Or at least let me deal with it rationally. This was something else and when I woke up the next morning I was crying in my sleep and felt worse than I had the night before.

But I had work. So I scraped myself together and did a 9 hour shift at a job where I have to be cheerful and out-going. A job that cuts counter to my natural personality in every way, where I ask shallow questions all day and am careful to not give any personal feedback in conversations. Unauthentic. I drug myself there, mentally, and I made it through but the entire time without a breakdown but it was there, hovering in my head. I wanted to bolt for the exit and run into the rain in a fit of… I don’t know.

Perhaps self-pity? Maybe. Is that wrong? I was hurting so much, I’d feel pity for a friend in the same state. It felt (feels) as if the three years I’d been doing improv had been a waste. A complete uselessness. Nothing. As if continuing would be a further waste, which broke my heart because I do enjoy it so. Sometimes. (not as much lately) And I wanted to walk away from the entire mess. All the time, the energy, the embarrassment, the money, the lost sleep- cut my loses.

Self-delusional. I’d been living blind and the blindfold had been removed. Who was I to think that I could ever act? Ever be funny? Ever have real emotions? I’m a waste. Waste of both my own time and that of my teachers and classmates. It’s clear. I do not and never will have what it takes.

My last night of Meisner 2 at Green Shirt was Tuesday night and I went into it with all that in my head. This where is a movie I would have this amazing performance and all my fears would be washed away.

I had an acceptable time. Being the last night we did a scene on our feet for the class. It was my first time. Ever. I didn’t even know what that phrase meant 8 weeks ago. (I enjoyed it, I am finding that I enjoying scripted work more than I thought possible) It wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t terrible. It was a reasonable scene to expect from a couple of actresses who are learning their way through a new style of work. I felt OK about it, which is high praise from my brain.

What made all my crazy feelings come back was the note I got afterward. The note the be authentic and work off the emotions that are there, not the ones indicated by the script. Which my forever improv note is to show bigger, louder, and broader emotions. And I get that two different art forms require two different things but I feel crazy because when I try to play authentic I get told I’m pretending and when I try to pretend I get told no one can tell and so I fail at BOTH. If I could just manage ONE of them I’d feel so much better about myself.

(Self-value is supposed to come from the inside. That’s even more difficult)

It’s tempting to quit. To stop acting and work on my writing. I’m good at writing. I want to write for TV. I don’t get enough regular practice time in-if I quit playing at acting I would have more time to focus on that. To do what I’m better at naturally. What I have a gift for doing- I’ve been told that over and over again. What I could pay the bills with one day. It makes sense.

(writing is a joy)

I don’t want writing to be where I hide. I want it to stay something I do because I love it. Not something I do because it’s the only thing I can do. If I focus entirely on writing I want it to be because I have an opportunity open up, not because I’ve run away from everything else and it’s all I have left.

I’m now in this place where I’m off the ledge, I’m not about to drop-out and hide in the middle of this show run. Or back out of the Meisner 3 class I already signed-up to do. But the ledge is still there.

It hurts. I am getting the EXECT SAME NOTE I got in my first improv class. My very first one. The same note I get in every class, from every teacher I’ve had, and in every single workshop. All my work and time and tears and I’m not any better. I’m not. I mean, my skills are better and my ideas are better and I know tons of techniques and tricks (I’m learning how to get an audience to laugh by the way I look at them) and forms and edits and terms. But I still don’t, can’t, put emotion into my work.

At Meisner I thought I was doing better. And I mentioned that to a classmate (during the weekend of already freaking out) -that I felt like I was finally getting the hang of letting my emotions show. And she answered, really? Because you’re one of the most closed off people in the class. I wanted to shoot myself.

Does continuing to do improv/acting even makes sense? If I’m never going to get past this then continuing is frustration. Frustration for me, frustration for people on my team. I found out in a round-about way that someone I was on a team with had asked everyone else on the team to do another team with them, but didn’t want to work with me anymore. (not the first time that’s happened) And that hurt. Of course. And that’s part of the business. I wasn’t angry. Just hurt.

I want to be good. If WANTING to be good at improv was being good at improv then I’d be a rockstar. I’m not. I try. I try to be supportive and I try to have good energy and I try to do everything I’m supposed to do and I still don’t measure up.

I’m at the place where I am utterly frustrated because I am out of ideas. I can’t fix whatever is wrong with me. I don’t know how to feel things correctly. I don’t know how to get better at having emotions. And all the improv advice in the world about “Stop thinking. Feel. Emote. Lead with emotion. Let go.” doesn’t help when I don’t know HOW to do that. I don’t understand how people let their feelings be stronger than than thoughts. I don’t know how to “pitch a fit like a little kid” or “be in love”. Those instructions don’t make sense to me and I thought they would with time and practice but after three years it still doesn’t connect.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. elisamarie111
    Jun 08, 2014 @ 03:10:34

    oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about how your teammates treated you and about the improv/heart struggle. If you did not have an authentic heart, perhaps you would not have written this–poured your heart and shattered courage on the ‘page’ like this. Definitely, definitely, you are authentic and beautiful and intelligent. You are spoken for by the King, too! And he will make his purposes known to you as you seek him. surely, a heart cannot splinter even a tiny bit without being noticed and accounted for by him. take care, cyber/BCOM friend :o) Let loose some big juicy tears for this ‘hope deferred’ I’ll be holding space in my heart for you…and …for some reason this post makes me want to watch Stranger Than Fiction, so I’ll probably make time for that too!


  2. Brandon
    Jun 08, 2014 @ 18:34:09

    Oh man, have I been in your shoes before. I started reading this and it felt like everything I’ve ever written down in my journal. Same thoughts. Same feelings.
    You are definitely not alone in this.
    I know very little about the scenario here (besides what you’ve written) but I wouldn’t take the blame on your sled completely like it feels oh so natural to do.
    How does a teacher pride themselves on giving the same instruction for 3 years? Every student needs praise and constructive feedback of course, but they everyone is different and learns differently. The “act like you’re in love” Might just not be the way for you. It sure wouldn’t be for me. I’m far too ‘in my head’ and I think about all the nuances (seniors, newlyweds, first time “lovers”, the way you love a goldfish who’s never even made eye contact, etc.)
    Anyways. Long comment (!) but in conclusion don’t let it define you and you are definitely not alone here.


    • A. L. Blackmon
      Jun 08, 2014 @ 22:43:17

      I want to say up front, I didn’t make that entirely clear. It hasn’t been the same teacher-I would have left. But it’s harder because it’s been a ton of teachers across three states. It’s the same note from so many different people.

      That said-thank you. It’s nice to just not feel so alone. 🙂 I’m a very “thinky” actor so i tend to get props for my editing, ability to tie scenes together, stuff like that. But it makes the other side so hard.


  3. iamleslied
    Jun 08, 2014 @ 19:55:26

    I wish I knew the perfect thing to say that would make your heart feel better. You are a talented woman with so much to offer. Not impressed with the same teacher saying the same stuff…could be a heck of a lot more creative than that…foster your strengths and help strengthen weaknesses. I’m frustrated for you. Hang in there to what will make you happy in the long run.


    • A. L. Blackmon
      Jun 08, 2014 @ 22:39:43

      I want to say up front, I didn’t make that entirely clear. It hasn’t been the same teacher-I would have left. But it’s harder because it’s been a ton of teachers across three states. It’s the same note from so many different people.

      Having said that, thanks for the encouragement. 🙂


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