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.

More

Feeling a Little Lost

iO Summer Intensive

Week 3

Instructor- Lyndsay Hailey

Thursday

I taught the class Super Villain Death this morning before Lyndsay came in. It was taught to me at CSz in MSP by a teacher who was annoyed by the fact that no one in the class would lose. We all wanted to win, to be right, to survive. Very human of us. Just not useful on stage. I changed it a little to make it flow better and make it more fun, so my version is like this-

Someone is an imaginary super villain, something made up on the spot (Dr. Acidica! Ant Commander! Death with Tentacles!), cheesier is better, and then they kill someone else in the circle with an attack that matches their power (Pour a bucket of acid on them, order 10,000 ants to eat them alive, rip them apart with their mutant octopus arms). As that person dies they must choose an avenger in the circle, someone to rise up as the next super villain and avenge them. As soon as there is another death then the first person killed can rise, fueled by the ashes/life force/powers of the latest victim. I love this game because you get to be so over-the-top dramatic, both in the killing and the dying.

Anyway, Lyndsay came in and found us playing. She seems to feel that we are a very violent group, since pretty much all our warm-ups involve all of us dying. She moved us into Openings and Singing Soundscapes.

Spent more time walking around and doing short scenes with whoever we squared off with when she called a stop. We did different characters, ideas, energies, etc. Then we moved into longer scenes, back as ourselves.

After that was doing an opening and trying to find the theme of it as a group (selfishness). Then doing 8 scenes that could be the first scene of a Harold, each one completely different from the others. I got some hard notes during this part. It was frustrating in the moment because I couldn’t figure out what she wanted (nor could my scene partner), but the feedback hit some of my big weaknesses dead center. So that gives me something to work on.

The afternoon was personal feedback and then scenes with a challenge to address a weakness. This was all feedback from Lyndsay, and it was stronger/harder than last week, though a few of the notes were the same. Some were different though, and one, the big one, was the same note I was getting a year ago! I don’t know how to “fix” it. And I know I’m holding myself back, I’ve known it for awhile. I can feel this thing almost all the time when I’m on stage and I know, I KNOW, that if I can deal with it I am going to be shocked by how much better my improv gets. Just a gut intuition. But that doesn’t help me clear it out.

My challenge was to play a bi-polar person with no control, who has crazy mood swings and doesn’t even make sense when they talk. It didn’t happen, but I did chase my partner hissing and trying to bite him, which is a big step forward for me. And then he beat me to death with his pogo stick. So it actually was a fun scene, but I still don’t know how to get out of my own way.

Snatches from today–

  • Any tiny detail can be mined and mined for richness and detail. Nothing is too small.
  • If you put the theme of the show into your character then it can never be lost, no matter where the scenes go.
  • The real “yes” can be to say yes to the conflict.
  • Strong emotions are supportive, even if they feel impolite or nonsupportive.
  • When you don’t know what to do in a scene it means you are circling the subject to justify it with words instead of acting and improvising.
  • Feel things, and show those emotions, instead of using words and making things make sense.
  • Justification strips the magic out of the thing.
  • Emote!

Sad and Dreary

 

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been writing a lot of sadder stuff than is my normal. I don’t know if that’s a reflection on my life right now, or if it’s just a reaction to writing working on something so lighthearted (Raising Trouble) for so long. But all of my short stories lately have ranged from bittersweet to downright sad. Everything from a man who kills his father-in-law (who he loves deeply) because it’s the right thing to do, to a (long) short story, that felt like a Twilight Zone episode, about a man who winds up being responsible for ending mankind. I’ve had other ideas that have been even worse, I haven’t written some of them up because I didn’t want to depress myself. Or end up crying on my keyboard at McDonald’s. That would be awkward.

On that note- am I the only one who gets so emotionally caught in their work? Sometimes I wonder. I’ll laugh at the characters, get tense/grind my teeth when they are in danger, and tear-up when they get hurt. People do that while they are reading, sure, but does anyone else do that while they are writing? Or is this just another quirk in my box?

Get lost?

If finding my way from point A to point B was a contest I’d lose. Every time. It’s not that I can’t navigate, I’m actually pretty good with a map. It’s that I can’t navigate without a map and I know that and yet every time I still think that for some reason this trip will be different. Today I’ll find my way to the new place without a map. This week I won’t get lost, I’ll be able to figure out where I am on my own. This afternoon I will just know which way north is and thus go the correct direction.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

No.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I am always wrong. And before someone tries to defend me and explains that I’m really not bad with directions, well, just consider the following-

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once drove the wrong way across an entire state. On the interstate. And it was daytime. More than 4 hours the wrong way. Didn’t notice until I was at the rest stop and looked at the “You Are Here” star on the  map. Thankfully I saw the map. Otherwise I might not have stopped till we hit Canada.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once got lost walking from my car to a creek that I had just driven over. To be fair- 2 other people were with me. But our 250ish foot walk ended up being over a quarter mile and we still never found the creek. Nor did we realize we had walked too far until we saw the interstate.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once got on a random bus in Korea and then rode it to the end of the line. Why? I have no idea, it seemed like an OK idea at the time. After the driver forced me off in the middle of nowhere I spent several hours walking along weedy roadsides and waving at staring locals until I eventually stumbled across another stop and caught a bus back toward the city.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went for a walk in a forest in NC with 3 other people, all of whom were experienced wilderness professionals. We became so lost on our “30 minute walk” that we almost built shelters and camped for the night. No food, no phones, no supplies. I wasn’t in charge of that near disaster but I credit my direction-impairing aura with influencing their own abilities since they hike for a living.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once tried to go to church just south of Houston and spent over two hours looking for it before giving up. Long after it would have been too late to attend, I was just trying to find the place at that point. I finally threw in the towel and went to a Mexican flea market instead.  I passed the church not 10 minutes after I left, obviously sitting by a road I been down several times that morning.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

The upside to all this is that I have seen some really amazing things that I might have missed otherwise. Things like a toothpick holder that was shaped like a man with cactus spines sticking out of his butt. Or fresh bear tracks, crossing over our own (though, creepily enough, we never saw said bear).

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I think my sense of direction in other areas is just as bad. I always feel like today is the day I will know exactly what God wants me to do. It’s not that I can’t follow God’s will. It’s that I can’t follow God’s will without his regular guidance and yet every time I think that this time will be different.  That this move will be the move that puts me on the right road for good. That when I apply to this college or take this job or make these plans that this is when I’ll have my direction for the rest of my life. That this time when I get guidance it will be permanent. This time I won’t get confused. This will be the decision that I can handle on my own. That I’ve finally gotten the hang of this and I can totally wing it now.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

No.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I am always wrong. Not always that I am not in God’s will for me at the time, but it’s not a one-time thing. I always want him to just tell me what I should do and then I’ll go do that. A sort of  job placement. He doesn’t seem interested in leading me like that.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once had horses and I was as happy as I’ve ever been. I thought I could raise and train them for the rest of my life and be supremely content. I’d like to say I gave that dream to God when he asked for it but to be honest he had to pry my cold, frantic fingers off one by one. And what could have been still hurts too much if I dwell on it.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once joined the military, the Coast Guard. Everything came together so well, my tests and exams went far more smoothly than I had imagined and I scored better than I had any right to score. And I was being assigned to my #1 choice in field. Then I was given a medical discharge for a condition I don’t have, and though I had all the symptoms while I was there I haven’t been bothered once since I got out. And that was a  death of a dream.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went to Korea and I had an amazing time. I was scared and alone and completely dependent on God and I grew more than I thought possible. Love for a people I didn’t understand and couldn’t really talk to filled me and I was inspired by the opportunities I faced and the work I was being welcomed into with open arms by the people who were already there. Then I came home, back to the States, and “reality” set in and I let that passion drift away. And I was reasonable and I was logical and I never went back.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went to a missions college, full of hopes and excitement. I was going to become a missionary, and I was going to go on the field for 16 months. I passed my classes, I passed my evaluations, I dealt with issues that could have kept me here. I was fully approved. I didn’t go. There were a number of reasons and they were all good; to this day I wonder if I should have gone anyway. But I made my choice and I stuck with it. And I said bye to that dream as well.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once moved to New Orleans to go to college. I fought the move with every fiber of my being. I hated to the city, I hated the thought of living there for 4 years, I hated that the school I wanted to attend had to be in a state I loathed. I fell head over heels in love with NOLA. I adore that city in a way I’ve never felt about anywhere else I’ve lived. I found an amazing church, made friends right away, and was excited to start classes for a major that perfectly fit my dreams. As if it had been written for me. And I couldn’t stay. No matter how hard I tried and I fought and I prayed there just weren’t any jobs and I ran out of money and I had to leave. I was so ashamed that almost just walked away into the streets and disappeared.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went to MN and doors opened for me at every turn. I began to work at an amazing job where I knew I had the chance to make a difference. I was surrounded by friends and people who truly cared about me. I found a great church and a great writing group and I got involved with the local arts scene.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

And while I am filled with joy and excited for where I am there is a part of me that cannot help but wonder- how this chapter in my story going to end? I can see God’s hand all through my adventures, both the good and the bad. And I can see how each of those experiences has shaped and prepared me for the next one. Truly, all things have worked together for my good. But that doesn’t change the fact that I catch myself feeling nervous now, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Feeling like this is too good to be true, or at least too good to last for very long. But I’m going to enjoy it while I’m here and see what the future brings.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

And I’m going to use my GPS while I’m in Uptown so I can avoid ending up in North Dakota.

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