So, I went to undergrad at one of those BFA programs in theatre where the modus operandi is to tear you down to build you back up as a "better actor". Some of my professors did this in a *slightly* more compassionate way than others, but whatever, most of us were young, unformed little zygotes. Also, I won't even get into the "male gaze" aspect of my undergraduate actor training, because that warrants a blog post (or EPIC NOVEL) all its own.
Anyway, I don't so much want to dwell on those times, just suffice it to say, I'm not sure they are the most effective means for all interested parties to become the best actor they can be. Don't get me wrong: I don't think sunshine needs to be falsely blown up anyone's ass, either. What I AM saying is there's a way to deliver the important information in a way that actually HELPS the actor in question become better at her craft without completely shutting her down. I call it the compassionate asskick. Because we all, especially when we are young, unformed little zygotes, definitely need that asskick. But acting teachers, take note! There is a way to do it without completely destroying the little zygotes. The teacher I went through 9 months of Meisner training with has the compassionate asskick down to a SCIENCE. I will always be grateful to her for it.
But I digress. This isn't a post on how to be a compassionately asskicking teacher, either. Just to say that if you are a teacher, you might look into it. I'm writing this because I had an experience yesterday that felt like being torn down again in a way that I really hadn't been since undergrad, and am trying to figure out how to write a constructive post about this experience that showcases the workshop it was part of, for the theatre company hosting the workshop, which I run PR for.
Since this is *my* blog, I can pontificate on the experience itself and give it its proper place, before I attempt to write a more objective, enthusiastic run-down of the workshop. This workshop in question, is on Auditioning, and we still have one more session on Wednesday night, when we will get to show our work. Last night was all about entering/leaving the room and the impressions we give, through our energy, the vibes we give off, and our headshots/resumes.
I have never had anyone sit me down and tell me what my "type" is. It has always been confusing to me. In undergrad, I played the mom/old lady roles (because I was fat, and of course, fat=age, since there are no fat young people running around in the world...), but also the hard lesbian roles. It became a running joke. When I got back into theatre at age 30, I was shocked to discover myself getting cast in leading women's roles (though they all had an edge to them). Now I am squarely in my 40's and playing roles that are all across the board. A smattering of these: 1.) aging chola 2.) ghost of dead queen, 3.) single, working-class mom 4.) crazy chick 5.) lecherous aunt 6.) pediatrician from the future. There is not necessarily a thru-line here.
And in that regard, last night's workshop didn't get me any closer to what my type is, other than NOT memorable, according to one of the teachers. Based of my headshot (above) and my energy while I was sitting at the table being a participant in the workshop. Headshot needs to convey SOMETHING (besides blue eyes) and they felt it did not, and that my energy in the room did nothing to support a feeling of any kind. I guess I just don't "pop" as a human being. Which is fine for an accountant, not so great for an actor. Then they asked us which actor/celebrity we get told we look like or we resonate with. I always get Patricia Arquette, but feel more like a Cate Blanchett. To which they replied "She's really fiery, I definitely don't get that from you."
So, I felt incredibly torn down in that moment, I could feel the lump forming in my throat. This is my greatest fear, that I can work and work and work, but basically it will never amount to anything because I just don't have "that thing". THEY SAID MY GREATEST FEAR ABOUT MYSELF. I could feel the tears starting to well up. And there it was, the CRUX. I've been going through a bit of a film vs. theatre quandry lately already, and now I am just completely forgettable. Every old tape in my head told me just to break down and quit altogether. Disappear. I don't need this shit!
BUT: I am no longer a zygote, I will not be torn down to be built into the image of what YOU think I should be, including NOT HERE. Because guess what, BITCHES? I made the decision to BE HERE FOR GOOD 15 years ago, and I'm not backing down from that. So what remains, since I am so WOEFULLY BORING AND FORGETTABLE?
Here's what remains. Be worthy of my ovaries, slap on my big-girl panties and get to work. The truth is, I have never put much work into being a good auditioner, or marketing myself, and they were right, I'm not the greatest at it. I've been lucky enough to develop several of my own projects and have worked with lots of people who would cast me again because I'm a known quantity (and perhaps they EVEN like my work!). And one thing I AM good at is work. I may not be the most talented, the most attractive or the most memorable at face value, but I DO work hard, and my tactic is to OUTWORK everyone and end up the last person standing. I just need to apply a little of that trademark Taurean work-ethic (and stubbornness) to this situation!
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.