My time at drama school was partly about learning to be a fool, by the end of an intense year, I felt like I was getting there, and that I could happily perform without the fear of judgement.
But the years since have not given me as much opportunity as I would like, to explore this side of me! And of course old habits can begin to creep in.
The weird thing is that I can walk into an audition and “play”. I can put on a goofy accent or pretend to be a chicken hatching from an egg, or attempt to tap dance knowing full well that I can’t! But when the rehearsals begin, I start to judge myself!
This is a key point. When actors talk about this sort of thing, they talk about being exposed to judgement from other people, but the truth is that it’s my own judgement of myself that is most harmful. I am not afraid of people seeing me be silly, I am afraid of being silly. This is the worst, because it is limiting to my character development, but also limiting to self-development.
Sometimes I am so afraid of being bad that by proxy I AM bad because by passing judgement on myself I am stunting my own growth. Instead of thinking about being “Good”, I have to remember that I need to “Be”.
I training I learnt how to be on stage, to stop pretending to be and just be! I remember in one scene that I was cleaning a table top, but I was acting cleaning it, I didn’t think to myself “i need to clean this table and get the crumbs from my dead lover’s toast off of it”, I thought “I need to look like I am cleaning this table.”
In my current project I am playing a gay man. And what am I struggling with? Instead of being interested in men and wanting them, I am pretending to be interested in them and thinking about how I would get them into bed. This is no different to life, my judgement has got in the way of the part, I need to approach this as a straight man would, because honestly it is to the same end, my intention is not to get a man into bed, it’s to get the object of my desire into bed, and that is a very different thing, indeed, because it removes any second guessing.
Look at what you want in a scene, judge how much you want it and what you are willing to do to get it. This is true of almost any scenario. If you are in a scene where you have no lines, you must know
A) whether you want to speak
B) what you would say or not say if you could
C) how badly you want to be silent/ want to speak.
And what is most interesting? When you can’t decide which!!!
Don’t get in your own way (or if, like me you do) take a step back and ask yourself what is the worst that can happen?
Our intrinsic qualities make us who we are. I wouldn’t change my approach, because it keeps me grounded and aware and based in truth. But if I could make a slight adjustment, I would ensure that I left every rehearsal, not knowing that I had done my best, but that I had just been.
Foolishly sensible, or foolishly foolish, but either way I was me.