Week 4 of class and it was, yes indeed, RAINING.
“slowly she turned, step by step . . .” No time to fret before class because I missed my turnoff and had to go the long LONG way around to barely make it on time.
No time for small talk, we just dove in. First we did the physical warm-up which was fine (as long as I stay away from the mirror). I know I should be moving around more and not standing in place but I am happy with what I am doing and that’s improvement right there. After that we went straight to the emotional spiral and I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t feel any of the emotions, not moving or standing still, and when she got to the part about feeling the anger in the “space” between us in the room and I was actually near tears because it all seems too “out there” for me to grasp. The same thing happens for meditations and other such exercises. I have some humongous mental block that won’t let me let things go. I guess. I don’t know. It was really rather frustrating and sad and depressing. Actually for about a half an hour of the class I was very down on myself. I know part of it is because I am used to be good at things and this is something I’m not good at and that I really don’t have the aptitude for. Now I can tell myself that it’s okay because it’s not like I’m looking for a career change but I really REALLY dislike not doing things well. I thrive on praise and I languish without it.
I will say though that we have a terrific group of people in the class that I am really enjoy getting to know. It’s just the overachiever perfectionist in me that has to accept that this is not my “thing” yet at the same time accept that there is still much to be learned from the experience.
We paired up again to practice transmitting something we wanted without saying a word. Then at a signal from the teacher the other person had to tell us that we could not have what we wanted. Those observing me said that I deflated (an automatic physical reaction) but then that I got a bit of a steel rod in my spine and straightened up again. I found that interesting. We moved to the camera for the first time. No taping, just the experience of standing in one place and getting used to the camera being on you. The rest of the class got to watch us on the monitor. We started off just standing there and then did the “want something” exercise but this time someone from the group would stand beside the camera so we could connect with them. For me it was the same thing as with the earlier exercise. When someone told me I couldn’t have what I wanted I felt the punch to the gut and then got more of an “I’ll show you” glint in my eye. I think this is good however I also think it is something for me to watch as it could easily get out of control with an attitude that is not the idea to project to the public.
The last thing we did was start to work on our monologues. Another interesting exercise. We didn’t, as we all expected to do, run through the entire monologue. Instead we took a single line from it and worked on raising the emotional stakes. The before and afters as we shared with the group were quite significant.
So what does all this acting stuff have to do with writing, or more specifically, with MY writing? For one thing, it is nice to be able to see that actors have to do the same things that writers do. They build a character. They have to know what the character wants. They seek the right emotional tone to convey the message. And they practice. A lot!
The other thing it is doing is taking my powers of observation up a notch. I’ve always been a people watcher but now I am looking even more closely at the details of what and how people act. Each exaggerated yawn or tapping of the foot, every twist of the ring on a finger, raised eyebrow, or sudden indrawn gasp…they are all fingerprints of a character. They are pieces of a story waiting to be told.