Being you can sometimes get old, right? I mean, you’ve been you all your life. Your quirks are the same day in and day out, your insecurities lingering beneath your core like residue. Wouldn’t it be great just to take a break from yourself for a while and be somebody else?
I have recently stumbled upon a way to press pause, so to speak, on my own life and switch screens into another story, another life, that in my current skin I would never get the chance to be.
Its called acting.
I have over the years heard stories of actors who literally become the character that they are portraying but I never really understood what that meant. I think of actors such as Christian Bale and Heath Ledger among others who are (or were) known for their extreme methods of preparing for their roles and staying in character. These extremes often resulting in the inability to separate themselves between the part they are playing and the reality they are living.
I have myself recently experienced this phenomenon, if you will, albeit on a much (much) smaller scale than the aforementioned professional actors. I have in essence been given the opportunity to be someone who is so unlike myself (and yet at the same time I think we can all find elements of a character that mirror our own in some way, shape or form).
I have had very little acting experience, almost none really, and was a bit nervous about being offered to play the part. This part was such that, if portrayed improperly, it could very well throw off the mood of the whole play. I quickly learned what it meant when people said that there are no small roles in a production. Every character paints a portion of a portrait from the lead actors to the one-liners. That one line you have could easily make or break a scene resulting in a disconnect from the audience involved.
I initially struggled a bit with feeling like I wasn’t quite “getting it”. All of these thoughts kept running through my head like, “what if, what the directors saw in my audition was a fluke?”, “What if I cannot truly exhibit the emotion of the character”, etc. Acting can truly be an emotional rollercoaster as the inner battle between your role and your reality rages inside. I know that to some this all sounds incredibly sensational but to an actor who cares about their craft its all very real.
I remember the night when the whole thing clicked.
When the emotion of a scene takes shape it almost becomes its own entity. A life form emerging on the stage. When the actors are all in sync the colors of what is happening become shockingly visible.
It’s a strange and slightly unnerving sensation to be so immersed.
During the height of emotion, as I lay blame at the feet of those around me, the director yelled, “Stop!”. At that moment I was the equivalent of a balloon that had just been stuck with a straight pin. It was like being jolted awake from a dream and suddenly realizing “Wait, that was not really happening.”
Out of nine performances I was only able to get back to that point twice.
Its all part of what I’m learning and part of what I’m loving about being an actor. (I use that term loosely because I really have only just begun to start acting.) I am learning what it means to be someone else for a spell. To experience life in another era, another state, or another part of the world.
Its somewhat liberating and slightly indulgent to let go of your inhibitions and be someone else and not have anyone think strangely of you.
I have attained a new respect and a new love for this art-form. Everything from the set design to the dedication of the actors to the vision of the directors. It’s a beautiful craft that teaches, informs, and inspires! And not just for the audience but for the actors as well.
Being in this role, playing this part, has shaped me somehow and I don’t know that I’ll ever be the same. It’s a form of enlightenment. A type of freedom.
I pray that God continues to grant me this joy of experience and storytelling, and that I can impact others through this art as it has so powerfully impacted me.