When Matt contacted me about writing this week’s blog I have to admit that my first reaction was to cringe and think: “Oh God, no! Why is he doing this to me? Like I need this pressure?” Then, I wanted to ask if I could put it off until the following week. You know, take some time to collect my thoughts; compose something really profound and impressive. Maybe a treatise on the history of drama showing how the themes we find in O’Neill and Miller, and the like, can be traced all the way back to our primitive ancestors telling tales around campfires and painting on cave walls (footnotes, anyone?). Yeah, that would knock their socks off! I’d show them how smart I am. Oh boy, what dreck! I’m asked to be honest and open and speak from the heart about who I am as an actor and a person and, instead, I want to put on a mask and hide behind my all too familiar walls. That’s PM2* smacking me right in the face! I mean, why do I do this, what am I afraid off? That you’ll see me? That I’ll put myself too much on the spot? Well, as an actor, as an artist, I should want to be seen. I should be fighting for the spot. So, here it is for better or worse.
I love acting. I came to it rather late in life, and haven’t been doing it for very long, but it’s become something I can’t ever see myself not wanting to do. My background is in craftwork, which, for the most part, is very different from art, performing or otherwise. Yes, the arts and crafts do compliment each other, and a work of craft can be breathtakingly beautiful, and we do speak about the “craft” of acting. But craft, at least the kind that I’m most familiar with is, first and foremost, utilitarian; it serves a “useful” purpose, one where function rules over form. Because of this, its creation can be constrained. Also, in the kind of work that I did, a mistake can waste time, money, and subject you to harsh criticism. The result was that after thirty years I felt stifled, angry, and had little desire to make anything anymore. Well, as they say, the Lord, God bless Him, does work in mysterious ways. The economy tanked and so did my company. I was shown the door, and decided that I needed to walk a much different path.
I turned toward acting because it was always in the back of my mind and I was encouraged to give it a shot. After some background work and a very bad “Intro” course that really didn’t have us do more that stretch and act like a tree, I felt I needed a real teacher. A Google search led me to Matt Corozine. Well, I didn’t know Meisner from Method from a whole in the ground, but I liked Matt’s website; it was informative and easy to negotiate. I called, I was interviewed, he invited me to come aboard, and I learned that acting was very different than I thought. It’s not about pretending, but about being truthful as to how I’m feeling in an imaginary circumstance. Not so much about playing, as about connecting with another person. Well, to someone who always tried to keep other people at arms length, that has been a struggle.
I’m now in a world where I’m not only allowed, but encouraged to be expressive. To live in and love my mess. To not worry about doing it right or looking stupid. To be open and available to another person who is equally messy and expressive. To know that I can and want to affect another, and that I can and want to be effected by them. That my point of view is valid. That I have something to say. It can be exhausting, but it has never been tiresome. I have been critiqued, but have never felt criticized. I can still feel scared when I hear Matt, or now Ryan, say “Tony, on stage,” but I do so want to be there. And, no matter where this may all eventually lead me, so far the ride and the struggle have been wonderful.
The other night at the end of class we were asked what we wanted to create as actors. I said that I wanted to create a person who was honest and fearless and who others would watch and think: “Yeah, that’s how I feel too. He understands.” I want to do that because I know how much I’ve been touched and urned my once safe, boring, and inspired by some of the performances I’ve seen. This whole process has tpredictable world upside down and given me this God-awful need to share.
It’s not about pretending, but about being truthful as to what I’m feeling. It’s also not so much about playing, as connecting with another person. Now to someone who has always tried to keep other people at arms length, that has been a struggle. But when I can do it, the ride, even though scary and exhausting, is usually pretty fulfilling. Where else in the course of a few minutes can I be soft and rage and yell and cry and be frustrated and supported and heartbroken and loving or laugh my ass off with another person and end up feeling great.
*PM2 is shorthand for MCS assignment Personal Monologe #2 which is an advanced assignment at MCS which is writing about that which blocks you–which is often hidden from your view at first, so the assignment itself will block you…until…