Learn Something New

Last week I was writing a page for the book that's in process now.  One of the ways I organize my thoughts is to make lists.  So, I was making a list of advice I give to folks from time to time in the ordinary course of things.  These bits of advice are hardly original--most of what I know I've been taught by many fine teachers over the years--but, if I'm giving it, it means I've tested it and it's worked for me. So, anyhow, one of the items on this list was, "Take a class, any class, but learn something new." Then Saturday I went to a play at a local community theater with friends. During intermission, one of my friends said, "Look, they are offering acting classes.  Let's take one."

Of course, I had no choice.  I had to say yes.  Practice what you preach.   AND   There are no coincidences.

So I signed up for the class. I have never done anything even remotely related to acting: I'm a little shy: and I'm often fearful of public speaking. Frankly, I'm terrified.  But….off I go.  I'll let you know how it works out. TCD

4/7/14 - Class starts next week.  I'm excited/nervous.  I got the recommended text.  Part One is called, "Freeing the Actor Within" and contains chapters on learning to observe, to listen, to concentrate, and on developing imagination. I can't help thinking about how all these things could help us in life as well as, I assume, on stage.   Okay, this could be good.    TCD

4/15/14 - First class today.  Our teacher says that her focus for the entire series is helping us to develop our imagination. There are twelve of us in the class, some experienced, some novice like me. Today we learned and practiced "warm-up", both body and voice.  I can see how that could be useful in a lot of situations. We worked on imagining, focus, and concentration.  Actually, I had fun.

Here's a quote from the text book: "Those building blocks (for actors) are concentration, imagination, access to emotions, listening, observation, and relaxation."  Now who couldn't benefit from increasing  skill in those areas?

So far, so good.

The text we are using is Anita Jesse, Let The Part Play You: A Practical Approach to the Actor's Creative Process, 4th Edition.  1998, Wolf Creek Press.  TCD

4/22/14 - Oh, my.  I had my first acting experience today.  It was scary and thrilling in its way. I won't give the details, but we were given a couple of lines and very little instruction and there you go.  I felt shy and inept, but I did what we had learned so far, and focused and concentrated and imagined and it was okay.  For a few minutes, I actually forgot there was an audience or almost forgot.  For a fleeting second, I actually felt the emotion of the character, rather than my insecurity.  Wow.

I have no plans to ever go on stage, but I am happy to be having this experience.  I'm learning good stuff.  TCD

4/29/14 - I had such a good time in class today. I don't want to give away all the instructor's secrets, but suffice it to say, we did exercises that were totally new to me and so enlivening.  I am surprised at how little of the time I'm focused on my own fears and anxieties and how much of the time I'm focused on observing and listening and learning. The benefit, I think, of all this newness.  My take-away, an excellent reminder - The best way to relax is to get your mind off yourself and on to the task at hand. TCD

5/6/14 - This week we are studying, or in my case exploring for the first time, how to approach the script and the character. First lesson, always think about the character in first person or you will be too distant to play the part. Along these lines, one of the suggestions is to try to discover the character's "psychic itch"- his need/dissatisfaction/desire - What is this nagging sense of incompleteness that irritates me?

And I thought, what if I did that in real life?  What if I took time more often to really examine my own motives, the little ones as well as the big ones?  How might I live differently if I did that? In acting, the actor needs to understand - no, feel -  the character's motives in order to move the action forward.  The lesson seems to me that I am likely 'moving the action forward' in my life without really knowing what my motives are some of the time.  I think I've got some stuff to learn.  And nothing makes me happier than that.  TCD

5/27/14 - Last class.  It's been a nice experience - trying new things, working with a great group of people, thinking about things from a different perspective.  I still have no plans to ever go on stage and I still can't memorize very well (dark memories of elementary school assignments!), but I love knowing more about the preparation that goes into acting and I'll appreciate every performance I see going forward in a new way.  The title of one of the last chapters in our text is "Let Go and Fly", and the opening lines are these:

"The purpose of preparation is to give you the confidence to work spontaneously without inhibition.  Its purpose is to set free your creative spirit. You must not use it as a means of confining your spirit. You must not turn the preparation into a method of insuring that you won't make mistakes. Your preparation is not a weight you mentally drag around behind you, or tie around your neck, or push up a hill in front of you.  It is meant to be a framework that supports your creative efforts."

What sage advice no matter what we are preparing for -- with good preparation we can be free to "let go and fly" and engage fully with our creativity, enjoying the moment and letting go our insecurities.

I haven't had any great insights about why this came for me now and in this form.  It probably doesn't matter one whit.  Often, though, sometime down the road, I'll look back and say, oh, that's why that lesson came them.  I was going to need it for this.  We'll see.  I know I learned a lot, had a good time, met some nice people, and I'm happy.

Oh, and by the way,my advice stands:  Take a class, any class, but learn something new.