Day 6 Topic 1
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.— Friedrich Nietzsch
“ Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”– Bernard M. Maruch
“ Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”– Marilyn Monroe
What the audience wants to see on stage isn’t a person “acting” like someone else. The audience wants to see the actor being someone else for the time they are on the stage. We want to see what a real person would do if they were in the situations dictated by the dramatic work they are living through on stage. In a live performance that includes music, we want to see the music become a natural part of a real person’s world.
“ I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.”– Steve Maraboli
This may seem like a very “self-help” kind of topic. It might seem soft, abstract, or theoretical and a as a topic “nice” but not necessary. In my experience trying to help young performers unlock their abilities and become excellent actors and actresses I have found that until these core issues we will discuss in this topic are addressed and worked on the performers progress will be stunted. It is necessary if the goal is to reveal truth the the process of acting. I have come to see these concept to be very practical and concrete both in application and results.
“ Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”– Oscar Wilde
When we go about everyday life we usually are not analyzing and micro-managing every little action we take. For example, if we want to stand up from a chair we don’t actively think about shifting our weight forward, bending at the waist, shifting the position of our feet, pushing against the floor with your feet, and so on. We just stand up. If we do try to micromanage then we end up with first date syndrome.
First date syndrome manifests itself when someone is thinking too hard about being too calm, relaxed, and smooth. It is that awkward movie scene where someone tries to be smooth about putting their arm around someone but it ends up being clunky and awkward. This accounts for a good deal of how I would describe what I see on stage when young singing performers first get on stage. When our conscious mind tries to take over the multitasking responsibilities of our subconscious mind we run into problems.
What does the process look like that we use to accomplish everyday activities in a way that looks believable and natural? We give ourselves objectives or we react to the world around us instinctively. The temptation is to think of acting as something different from the actions we use in everyday life. This causes our body to do exactly what we unconsciously tell it to do and make it different from everyday action. Because if we aren’t doing everyday actions it doesn’t read as believable. Go figure.
Granted, there are things we have to adjust for on the stage. Stage violence is not the same as real-life violence. There is an audience watching so we need to adjust how we use our body so that they can participate in what is going on. We might be playing a character from a different time or with different body language than our own. Accommodating these differences is a skill set of its own that is often addressed by understanding costumes, culture, and other character-driven circumstances, motivations, and decisions.
The key to starting to do this though is to make it our goal to look like a person going about their business in this imaginary world like they would if they were in the real world without an audience watching. Even if the business is not “normal” the majority of the actions they take will be normal to that person. Whether a person is walking to a magic well or to the kitchen they are walking like that character walks every day. The richer in context and understanding we are of our imaginary world then we will be able to let our actions come as a result of inhabiting that world as your character and not as a facade we put up or a characterized version of reality.
“ About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.”– Rita Mae Brown
Letting yourself just “be” can be very hard. It can feel vulnerable. As performers, we think that we always have to be doing something to be exciting or not doing something so we aren’t distracting or improper. To just exist in the imaginary world thinking the thoughts your character would think, feeling the feelings they would feel, reacting to the world around them, and following the impulses your body has, as a result, requires vulnerability. Especially when we are asking you to put the self-judging and editing part of your brain away for a while and be 100% “in the moment.”
“ The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.”– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The goal to be authentic to your character and “be” your character instead of “acting like” your character is a life long project that is intrinsically tied to self-exploration. Can you let yourself just “be” without “having” to do anything but free to do anything without judging yourself or bringing into question your value as a person? How hard is it for you to believe the phrase “I am enough” or “I am worthy”.
“ Don’t let others box you into their idea of what they think you should be. A confined identity is a miserable way to exist. Be you and live free. Trust that in living true to yourself, you will attract people that support and love you, just as you are.”– Jaeda deWalt
In this section, we will start you on this journey of learning to just be and trusting that a person who is just being authentic and in the moment is interesting, beautiful, and interesting to watch on stage.
The first step is to explore the results shifting your mindset from acting to being has on performance on stage. Most singers I have worked with have excellent instincts. Their body from the start shows the signs of the impulses that are already there but just need to be freed after years of being trained not to restrain those actions. Often they need to eliminate all the self-talk that is irrelevant to the character and the moment the song is calling on that character to experience. Often all that is needed is permission to show what they think and feel. What is needed is for someone to tell them that just being is enough but to be them as fully and unapologetically as possible.
“ Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”– Dolly Parton
- Stop and just be. Set an alarm for 3 times throughout the day. Take a minute at that point to just stop, breath in through your nose to the count of 4 and out through your mouth to the count of three 10 times and as you do scan through your body to notice what is tense or loose, how you feel from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Close your eyes and listen for all the sounds around you. Open your eyes and just observe what is around you as if you had to describe it to a friend over the phone, notice what it smells like where you are, what is in contact with your skin and how it feels, and what taste is in your mouth. Give yourself these one to five minute moments through the day to just let yourself be and notice what change takes place over the course of a week of doing this.
- Daily affirmation ritual. Set a reminder so that at least at one point in the day you stop and look into your own eyes in a mirror. Name at least 3 good things you love about this person in front of you in the mirror. Name 3 things you are grateful for in your life at this moment. Name 3 things you love about someone who is hard to love. Then finish by saying out loud to yourself “I am enough” or “I am worthy” at least 3 times if not until you believe it. Repeat daily for a week and see what this does to change your ability to be vulnerable.
- Musical Impulses Part A. Turn on any piece of music. Stand there as yourself or as a character just observing all your senses. Permit yourself to act on any impulse you might have (that is physically safe and legal) that comes from listening to this music. What does it make you want to do? What does it make you not want to do? In my experience often the most freeing part of this exercise is permitting yourself NOT to HAVE to do anything as part of giving yourself permission to act on your impulses. Your impulse might be to do nothing but stand there breathing and becoming aware of your senses. That is fine. The key is to not judge yourself in the moment or worry about doing it right or wrong. Let yourself just be a person who is influenced by music.
- Musical Impulses part B. Sing a piece of music while videoing your performance. Your performance goals should be the same as above, to let yourself just be a person who would say these words to these emotions and let your body do what it will or won’t without judgement or force. After performing go back and watch the video. You will most likely see your body start to move or do things at moments you weren’t aware of. Go back to these moments and explore what the rest of the gesture is that belongs to the short often half gestures that came as a result of natural impulses. How big can you make it and what are the fuller versions of what your body wanted to do?
“ Don’t dilute yourself for any person or any reason. You are enough! Be unapologetically you.”– Steve Mariboli
I highly recommend the book I have included a link to below. It is a quick read and worth every penny. It gives practical means to achieve some of the challenges that face performers everywhere. What I have written above is NOT a summary of the book but instead something to think about and apply until you get around to reading this book.