02 November 2007

Frighted with False Fire?

There's been a change at the Aviary. Can you tell what it is? Go ahead. Have a look.

Seriously. It's cool. Look.

Give up? You didn't even try, did you? Come on. You know I'm way too stupid about web jib to do anything fancy; it's not like I could make the background pattern into an optical illusion or anything. (Man, but I wish I could make the background pattern into an optical illusion. [Sailboat!]) Try. Go ahead already.

That's right: my "Aspects" (the topics list down left) is now sorted by frequency, rather than alphabetically. I MUST REQUEST THAT YOU RETAIN YOUR COMPOSURE. Just breathe. Relax. We're gonna get through this. I can hear, through this magical series of tubes, your angst-ridden pleas for explanation. Allow me to address that: I don't know. Or, rather: Just 'cause. I've been thinking for some time now that once I had a good number of entries, it would be good to see what I'm writing about most and least often, and there you have it. Generally, that is. I think that, as a weblogger, I am a little topic-happy. There are generally 49 topics for each entry. What can I say? I like that feature. So every so often, if you use it, you'll get an entry that has only one sentence about the topic you were searching for. Sorry 'bout that.

I confess, too, that a little bit of pride goes into the resorting. People that I don't know, at all, are reading my 'blog with a certain nonchalant regularity, and now anyone who visits--assuming they're geek enough to scan the topic list--can see if what I concern myself with interests them or not. Theatre-philes will be pleased. People researching pigeons will probably pass me by. Interestingly enough (note I do not say "suprisingly enough"), as of the date of this entry, number 5 under "Aspects" is . . .

Now, this is interesting to me for a variety of reasons:

  1. I kind of thought "anxiety" or "fear" would make the top three. In this sense, it's kind of an accomplishment.

  2. Just last night I had a conversation with Friend Kate that addressed the topic of anxiety, both in general and as it pertains to yours truly, and it was revealed to me that the anxiety with which I approach many things can be a bit upsetting and tiresome. Why this never occurred to me before, I have no idea, but she's right.

  3. Anxiety was an energy that a lot of my acting used to be fueled by, and just lately I've been finding that unhelpful, both in terms of the relative staying power of that energy and the influence it has on my acting choices.

So. Buttons. Where to begin?

Well (to begin,), allow me to say that I believe I have gotten a little better about this whole "anxiety thing." Folks what knew me back in the day (which was a Wednesday; I don't know if you knew that) can tell you, I used to freak out about and be afraid on some level of just about everything. Even things that really had little-to-nothing to do with me personally. Somehow, I found value in taking responsibility for every little thing I could, and I think it had something to do with the idea that I needed to earn love, or something similarly packed with pathos (the bad kind). I'm not saying I've worked that out entirely, but I'm much better now at identifying what is truly my problem, what's my sympathy, and I don't freak out about telephone calls or public places. As often. >wink!<

The issue for me now-a-days has more to do with functioning without anxiety; that is, dropping some anxiety without becoming a total ne'er-do-well. I am addressing this challenge both in terms of life and in terms of acting. I mean, damn, but the way I used to get things done in rehearsal was to rev up the old engine and let it fly, see where it took me. Now, however, things have changed. The acting engine doesn't seem to want to run now unless it's getting proper fuel and recipricol kinetic energy. (Distended metaphor engine: apparently 100%.) That is to say, whereas before my anxious energy translated easily into big, sometimes bad but always boisterous, acting choices, now nothing dramatic happens unless I'm making the right choices and doing so with a scene partner who is right there with me.

In some senses, this makes me a "better" actor. In fact, I would wager that most laymen would analyze this as an obvious improvement, based on the standard that fewer right answers are always better than a multitude of wrong ones. That's not exactly an actor's job, though. In fact, as I have come to understand it, using too much discernment in the moment actually impedes an actor's process, turns him or her into a simultaneous experimentor and critic who constantly self-nullifies. What most people need from an actor is for him or her to come into a rehearsal room and screw up big time, left, right and center, to find the occasional just-right gem of a choice.

It really is a question of fuel. Once, it was sufficient to face the stage (and life) with a heaping helping of anxiety to fuel my ride. It got things done, and it seemed endless in supply. Well, I suppose anything that seems unlikely to change is a thing that will surprise you. That's part of the pleasure of acting, I must admit. It's fascinating work because not only does it never sit still, but one's instruments never do, either. It's like trying to perform surgery on a patient who is engaged in aerobics, and with anthropomorphic tools animated by Disney. (Distended metaphor engine: definitely 100%.) That is to say, the craft of acting sometimes seems to boil down to staying flexible enough to keep up with changes. After all, the only constant in life is change.

And change makes me anxious. >wink!<


Patrick said...

1)My first acting teacher talked about 'getting rid of the editor in your head.' It was a good image for me, and yes, I think watching ourselves, and judging, even just analyzing, is counter-productive in rehearsal. I'm firmly in the 'feel free to make mistakes' camp when it comes to rehearsing. It can be tricky if one is working with a "I only want results" director, of course, which is why I do all I can to avoid them.

2. It's funny, isn't it, how easy it is to think we're not working unless there is a lot of tension, anxiety, or what-have-you. I think this is often rooted in the need we have to prove that a)acting is serious business, dammit, and b)we are TOO working, this isn't just indulgence! It becomes easy to forget that we first started this work because we love it, enjoy it, maybe (gasp) even have a natural affinity for it in key ways. Oh so dangerous an idea. Approaching rehearsal (even performance, really) with a lack of tension, with energy flowing freely and easily, using where we are at that moment rather than forcing ourselves to get into some sort of specific (anxious, manic) state...tricky. I constantly have to relearn this. But it's so much better.

Jeff Wills said...

Insightful as ever, Patrick. It's funny to hear from you about the relearning of relaxation in our work, because that relaxation is part of what I associate with your work. When I think more specifically of the times we've worked togetehr, then I recall those shared moments of frustration, or flinging about. I suppose it can't be avoided completely. More training! To relax! With great vigor and discipl . . . oh, wait . . .