Complete, unbridled, nerve-tingling joy. That’s what I feel when I walk onstage.
I think a lot about what made me start doing theatre. It’s a common question. “When did you know you wanted to be an actor?”
What is hardest for me to parse is the kind of certainty I have about this career. For someone who has trouble deciding what brand of razor blade to buy, who vacillates about how fat I am on a daily basis, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what I want to do. And the proof is in the pudding– I left home at 16 to study theatre, moved to NYC to study in college, and against all homebody, nature-loving odds, make my life in the big city.
I hate this business sometimes, I doubt my strength when the going is tough, but I honestly CANNOT imagine my life any way but this. I can’t even fantasize it.
Acting, I guess, is a way of disappearing as much as it is a way to have lots of people see you.
As a kid, I was often sequestered in my room, either by choice or by being sent there for being bad. Around 11 or so, I had access to my dad’s big dell laptop, and I discovered that many screenplays were available, for free, in big databases online. I embarked upon a major project– using imdb and google, I made a long list of movie roles I could potentially play in films that had already been made. From that list, I’d work to find the screenplay online. Once I found it, Id sit in my room and read it, all the way through, reading out loud (acting) the character I imagined playing.
My favorite role, for a lot of reasons (not the least of which was because I loved Renee zellweger), was Alison lohman’s part in WHITE OLEANDER. Despite endless searching, I couldn’t locate the screenplay online. So I did what any slightly obsessive, wholly dedicated twelve year old would do– I watched the movie and literally transcribed the screenplay, word for word. As I recall, it took a number of hours.
So… I don’t really know. It’s a long answer.
I can tell you that I started as a dancer, and while I was incredibly flexible and pretty talented, what I liked the most about dancing, really, was the acting. And that’s, I think, what made me a good dancer-at least the kind of dancer people noticed. Dancing was more accessible to me than, say, acting classes, and required less time-wasting with other kids. In ballet class, everyone was quiet and I felt like I was moving forward. Acting class was frustrating for me, as I was surrounded by a bunch of distractable kids who wanted attention. I did great at boarding school. 🙂
So tonight, in the final dress rehearsal for the show I’m doing for the next three weeks, as I shifted my weight into contortions, leapt and fell to the floor with control, and swept around the small stage in well-practiced patterns, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Using my body in my acting (in this play, to do clowning and commedia) feels RIGHT.
And those raw moments of the play, where the only thing that exists is the look in Reed’s eyes-the kiss or kill- or the way Angie skips onstage after a betrayal, like nothing has happened, or the genuine nerves and laughter of the epilogue– I am so much myself. I get to experience worlds different from my own, physical contortions, and heartache and lust and love, it really just boils down to ME, really looking, really hearing, really standing there and taking it, and letting myself feel every bit. No hiding.
It’s not really disappearing, I guess. It’s allowing honest feeling to seep out and be seen. I am actually standing there, actually slapping his face, actually kissing his lips, actually blocking her way.
And unlike life, much of the time, I get to experience it fully. That’s what I share with the audience.
And that is joy. That is release. That is certainty.