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Tag Archives: Tennessee Williams
Whenever I’m in NY teaching at our school there, I’m reminded of how much humanity is about . . . well . . . just being human.
Maybe because LA is shaped by a car culture, it’s so easy to remove ourselves from life (from connection, from vulnerability, from having to confront life head-on as we’re walking down the street). Instead, we escape into the confines of our cars, roll up our windows, tune out the world and what we’re feeling. When we do, we sometimes forget that really being human is the hardest thing to be.
We try to look a certain way and keep up appearances. We cut feeling off at the pass. We avoid being perceived as “not having it together.” We pressure ourselves into thinking we have to be perfect . . . like all the time! We’re hyper-aware of how we look and negotiate with ourselves around the discomfort of aging, rejection, self-worth, relevance, comparing-and-despairing, self-judgment, failure and not believing we should share this discomfort with anyone. (Which further exacerbates our feeling alone.)
It’s ironic, then, that the art of auditioning (and acting itself) is really about being comfortable being uncomfortable.
In other words it’s about allowing oneself to be seen.
It’s an interesting contradiction because we’re in a business that’s all about “being seen” by putting ourselves out there. Yet the work often asks us to “be seen” in ways that are scary and vulnerable, raw and exposed, embarrassing and human. In short, we don’t, then, want to be seen.
I often tell my students that acting is really about having to be more honest in our work (in class, in a play, on set, in an audition) than we typically allow ourselves in life.
It’s about sharing our private selves publicly.
In the privacy of our homes we’re weird and sexual and complex and messy and obnoxious and loud and freaky. (And in NY you might even see all that on the subway!)
But when it comes to auditioning, we pull it all together and put on a perfect face.
Stop doing that. It results in zero possibility. No life force. No access to anything you want.
Let it all hang out. All. Of. It.
When you do, a casting director or director or producer sees a spark of your unique humanity (i.e., you) and gains insight into how to further open the actor up.
But if you remain a closed system, you’ve lost access to anything that’s remotely interesting. And you give the casting director no other choice but to utter, “Next!”
It sounds so easy. And in many ways it is. But if you haven’t developed a muscle of commitment and going for things consistently it’s actually the hardest thing in the world.
But practice does make perfect. (Or perfectly imperfect!) The more you do it, the more you start giving yourself the permission. And that’s all you can ever do.
No one can ever do that for you. Ever. No agent or manager or casting director or writer or producer or director or boyfriend or girlfriend or parent or teacher or friend.
As Tennessee Williams says, “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
But you have to try.
In your acting. In auditioning. In your life. In romance. In relationships. In learning. In self-expression. In doing things that scare you. In everything.
Simply, in Being Human.
You don’t get what you wish for in life. You get what you believe. And sometimes, our beliefs need a little bit of encouragement. For example, you believe you can do something (write a play, audition for a show, ask someone out on a date) but you also have doubts. You fast-forward to the end results and start worrying. Or you focus on what someone else will say or how they might react. Or you come up with excuses why it won’t work.
But when we finally commit, we discover that those projected fears rarely occur. The miraculous act of commitment ushers in the discovery of things that weren’t available to us had we not committed.
Commitment to something is both causal – you cause something to happen that ordinarily wouldn’t; and it also creates the end result or the effect. You end up experiencing the effects of stepping into something and making a commitment.
So you’re both the cause and the effect.
But it’s up to you. To experience the things you want in life requires you to step into the unknown. If you’re sitting on your couch all day long, lighting up the bong or playing Wii or reading other peoples’ Facebook walls you’re not really committing.
We don’t know what commitment looks like so that’s why we’re often hesitant to step into the unknown that commitment requires. But the leap I’m asking you to take isn’t unconquerable. It’s not crossing the Grand Canyon. But you’ll never know how unless you attempt to experience something that’s foreign to you.
Start small. Turn off the TV. Ask someone out on a date. Start writing. Work on acting material that’s challenging. Get your reel together. Tell someone what scares you. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Take the trip you’ve been postponing. End a relationship that’s causing you pain. Call an agent. Go to the gym. Ask for help. Demand respect. Express your needs. Meditate. Let go of control. Laugh more. Give up the drama.
Small acts (like these) lead to big victories.
“Make voyages! Attempt them! There’s nothing else.” — Tennessee Williams