maanantai 1. lokakuuta 2012

Days 9 & 10: Why do I act?


I'm stressed about my acting. I'm afraid I'm not doing a good enough job on the role I'm working on at the moment. My worst fear is that I will not be able to make it real enough, believable, genuine, and that I will then be judged as a “poor actor”.

I'm obviously bothered by how I perceive others to judge me. Having been within the world of theatre so long I've never even questioned its existence: the feedback is immediate, it's straightforward, it's mostly very honest and it is in fact most necessary – and I've learned that I ought to mould myself accordingly. I haven't really looked at what happens within an audience member when they give verbal feedback after a show (instead of i.e. laughing or applauding in the middle of a play = immediate feedback): they share what they just experienced through an emotion/feeling that's left topmost and through various filters one uses to manage their speech, and then I view it through my filters and hear what I choose to hear and how. Instead of thinking of the audience's verbal feedback as the “ultimate authority” on whether or not we “succeeded”, I should be focusing on why I'm doing this in the first place, what has my/our goal been and what that feedback then tells me about the success of those.

I have set high expectations for myself. I see this role to be some kind of a “breakthrough” or a possibility of such, as it is the “biggest” and most challenging I've ever done. “Breakthrough” as a phenomenon does exist (= to be known by a larger public), but its relevance and meaning is completely up to me. What would fame bring? I'm already known locally, and I'm still not performing on such a “big” stage that I could actually make my “fame” much larger than the audience that already knows me. To be known is to have more possibilities open, more chances to do something “more” in terms of challenge, impact or size. But fame would also bring me admiration, appreciation, validation. If I'm doing this only to get a validation of my own worth, asking the audience to tell me I'm “enough”, I should quit acting now. I've got to erase the reasons that are not about doing it for myself. When I do theatre for myself, I'm bound to do it as well as I can, and that's when the feedback and appreciation of the audience becomes irrelevant.


I waited overnight for self-forgiveness, but a new dimension opened up. I realized I've never really questioned the existence and relevance of theatre within my life. I have been aware of the question itself but too afraid to actually open it up.

I've been acting in the same theatre since 1999. I started out as a child and I literally grew up there: during these 13 years the people, attitudes and values of the environment that is this theatre has educated me, raised me and influenced greatly what I have become. The place itself has been a second home for me, and during rough times a place to escape to – but also a place that rough things happen in and where things get tiring. However, the turmoil within those walls has always been settled in peace, which is something that I can't say for my life outside the stage.

The people have formed a circle of support for me, a safe haven of mutual trust, compassion and acceptance. When I started acting at the age of 10, I was about to enter a period of time in my life where bullying began and I withdrew myself more and more. Having theatre as a place to open up and express, to forget myself and my shitty life for just a couple of hours, was keeping me alive through times I just wanted to die. I am grateful for the people who kept the place running and established the foundation for all communication and interaction to be supportive. I am glad to have made friends of different kinds and to have learned to get along with all kinds of folks.

But I fear it's become a habit. I cannot see my life without this theatre or any kind of theatre-related activity. I don't know what I would become and I fear I would become something I don't want to be. I don't know what else I'd do. I don't know what else I'd enjoy as much. I don't know if I'm good at anything else. I've defined myself according to theatre: what would be left if I removed those definitions? I fear the emptiness I might face, even though I know the emptiness is actually quite awesome, since from emptiness I can create whatever. I fear being definition-less. I fear being Nothing. What would I be without an identity?

Id-Entity – an entity of 'I' – a separate being that is of ego. Identity is another personality, another mask, another limitation, another definition of the image that is “me” to keep me doing the same things for same reasons in the same ways so that nothing ever changes. One gets attached to ones identity. One can even say one “loves” oneself, actually “loving” the image one has created of oneself and fully believing it, justifying its existence with emotions and desires and wants and needs and fears. The image that is “identity/personality” has become an entity of its own, consuming the one wearing it.

I have defined myself to be a “theatre person”, meaning I live and breathe theatre and commit myself to doing it. As actual actions this is somewhat true: I do commit myself to projects, I do spend a lot of my time doing and studying theatre and I choose to do all of this. But that does not make me a “theatre person”. That doesn't make me anything. My choices and actions may define me in the eyes of others, but I'm the one who chooses to or not to create definitions of myself for myself.

As I have asked myself the question “am I a good actor”, I have forgotten that the “goodness” of an actor may be defined in many different ways. The way the Theatre Academy defines a “good actor” depends completely on the head teachers, and how they perceive acting is a result of varying professional backgrounds, affecting also what they perceive theatre and drama and their purpose to be, what the possibilities are, what is the field here, what is it out there, how “special” they see acting etc. The way my peers in our amateur theatre define “good acting” is different. How do I choose to define “good” acting? Is there such a thing?

When I ask myself “am I a good actor” what I'm really asking is “am I enough”. I have accepted and allowed the fixed perception of the performing arts, where the validity of authorities is not questioned, to affect myself in such a way that I have been unable to question my reasons to train certain abilities and skills. Even though I may have also had good reasoning to keep practicing, I haven't been fully living it, as I have been stuck with the idea that I have to be better to measure up. I now see and realize the only reason worth practicing the art of acting is to investigate and study how humanity as myself functions as movement, emotion, interaction, voice and touch by getting to know my body inch by inch and test over and over again how things actually function in motion. As I learn more I will be able to utilize what I've learned in – whatever. I don't know where I'm going to “end up” or what I'm going to choose “next”, but right now I make the decision to commit myself to studying drama, yet leaving all definitions behind; I know this is a tool I want to learn, but to define myself as “a user” of this tool I limit myself from figuring out what I could actually use it for. Quite the relief to let go of the image of “career” I have had in my head, with milestones and highlights and a respectful ending as an elderly elegant actress, retired yet luminous (lol). It's the image I've learned, but not what I want anymore.

Will open this up with self-forgiveness.

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