I Wasn't Kidding


I've written here already about my recent exploits in (read: surrender to) teh Facebookz, and how I think it relates to my general life and specific creative journey, blah blah blah. Embracing my past yadda yadda savoring the moment etc. etc. and so on. And so on. As usual when I'm writing about anything in the moment of experiencing it, I have found that I was completely wrong or, at least, utterly naive. That's a bit harsh: I was assumptive in my appraisal of the over-all effect of going all-in on a "social networking" site. Teh Facebook(c) has reached deeper into my history than I had imagined it would and, owing largely to the way in which it is structured, has allowed me to contact and be contacted by people I really am curious about from my sordid suburban past. Last night, I reconnected with my first-ever drama (you called it "drama" in my neck of the woods) teacher. This is the guy who got me seeing what I do today as something more than showing/goofing off, something that was done. And now I can check in with him anew. Madness.

One interesting personal side-effect I've noticed from this world-wide-interwebz experience of mine is that people I know, know one another, too. This is not surprising in the big picture; actors tend to spend much of their social time together throwing out names to establish connections by association with one another (an occupation I loathe...but could probably benefit from learning to enjoy, somehow). People know people. That's how people are. This isn't Russia. (Is this Russia?) This isn't Russia. [ <-Ahoy, movie quote! ] It's not absurd to find connections between dots when you bother to search. I just don't search very often, and now the Internet does it for me. Thanks, Internet!

The other interesting thing that I've noted brings us back around to the actual mission statement* of Odin's Aviary (*Now 12%** more missionier! [**Actual missioniness subject to personal experience and position of Saturn at time of missionesque experience.]). Specifically, I'm invited to re-explore the origins of my bizarre and unnatural quest to infuse my life with acting gigs. Some people you get back in touch with are naturally from your later life, or even as far back as the transition from youth to adulthood. Still others show up from times of sleep-overs and recess. Most recently, owing in large part to being found by my old theatre teacher, I've begun to get back in touch with people I knew in that most developmental of educational stages: intermediate school. Or: middle school. Some even call it "junior high." But in my aforementioned neck of the woods, it was "drama class" and "intermediate school." This was the time in my life when a real stage entered it -- as in the wooden kind, with curtains and lights and EVERYTHING. The smell of sawdust in an largely abandoned school building on tech day. The temper tantrums of students and teachers alike. The declamatory style of eleven- and twelve-year-olds playing middle-aged characters (my particular forte at the time). Intermediate theatre.

In so doing, the people I used to know now know that I'm still doing what we did. Before. Which is to say, not everyone who participates in theatre in high school and junior high continues to do it. I know: It's SHOCKING. I kid (ALL CAPS = sarcasm), but I keep getting notes from people saying that it's nice to see I'm still at it, and all I can keep thinking is, You mean you're not?! Yet another thing I haven't thought through. I believe everyone is inclined to imagine the people they used to know in the same or similar context as that in which they used to know them, but for me to assume everyone found as formative an experience in their 7th grade as I is a bit beyond the pale. Still, I can't help but mirror their surprise at my continued involvement, and marvel at their lack of involvement. I want to ask them when the last time they set foot in a theatre building was. I want to know where that all went for them, if anywhere.

And then: Is it surprising that I'm still doing this? I mean, discounting for a moment the possibility that the people I grew up with might view a career in theatre as a childish or irresponsible thing (and I really hope to give them more credit than that), was there anything about me in my youth that suggested I wouldn't keep at it this long?

Come to think of it, there may have been a thing. Or two. Let's face it: Every effort up until one is old enough to reap a few consequences can be filed away as experimentation, or a learning experience. There are even some times of life when this is so expected as to be nearly ubiquitous, such as the teenage sexual experimentation, or the toddler this-whole-walking-thing learning experience. I know people who've written off everything that happened to them prior to year 20. Plus, when I started theatre, I had far fewer advantages than now. Theatre taught me a lot about how to effectively interact with people, gave me tools for overcoming my social awkwardness, and a good dose of metabolic puberty didn't hurt, either. Come to think of it, if I had known me back then, I would have penned me for an English teacher myself. So there were a few reasons why my far-flung friends of yesteryear might be surprised to find me treading the boards to date. Oh, and one more reason, at that.

I didn't learn to act for about a decade.

In some sense, one is never done "learning to act," of course, but that's not what I'm referring to. No, I mean to say that for the seven-odd years prior to my college theatrical experiences, I thought I was acting, and I simply wasn't. I was working hard, and I loved what I was doing, and I was doing a great many things as well or better than some, but acting was not one of them. It wasn't until I got to my third official acting teacher, in college, who had a penchant for axioms and anagrams, that it sank in. He says, "Acting is reacting." I don't know how many times he said it before this happened, but one day: PING! Acting is reacting. There's a lot of ways to express this idea (or, really, host of ideas) -- listening is key, don't "act", stay in the moment, make the other person look good, etc. I try to comfort myself for what would seem like wasted time with an idea from Sanford Meisner -- that it takes at least twenty years to learn how to act -- but of course all the years spent not acting were in fact necessary for me to learn this lesson. Some people understand it intuitively, even at eleven years of age. I was not such a one.

What I did understand from a young age, even before I understood that I understood it (take a moment; that was almost as self-referential as an actor's 'blog), was that I wanted to do this, whatever it really was. I remember watching older actors doing their thing, kids in higher grades than I and movie stars alike, and thinking, God, what do they do that makes this so good? That's a question that has driven me a long way, down a windy road, and it still takes over the wheel now and then at that. Good thing, too, because I still have a lot to learn. When I would see videos of myself on stage in intermediate school, I would wonder why it looked and sounded so different from my inner-perception of it. At age eleven, when most of my friends were doing their damnedest to get off school property just as soon as they could each day, I was disappointed if I didn't have rehearsal to stay for. I didn't realize I had made a choice about the rest of my life, but every time I got to take the stage, my world aligned somehow and I meant everything I did, even without really knowing what I was doing.

It's good to remember that. Thanks, friends, both old and new.
 
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