Saturday I spent the day at a theater, for my second taste of the Tom Todoroff Act Now program. I had both been looking forward to it, and was slightly terrified of it, since I was expected to have worked on what I got wrong last time and improved, which I was afraid I hadn’t.
Luckily, though I was still a bit nervous, the stress and fear disappeared as soon as I got there. It’s something about being surrounded by like-minded people with the same hopes and fears as you, that makes it seem less scary, because at least you’re not alone. I sat with Lisa, my friend Jonathan, and Michele, my scene partner from last time.
The day starts out with voice work, a different teacher from last September, with a very different (although very similar) approach, which included massages and a conversation with our tongues tucked over our teeth…very interesting, to say the least.
We were a whole lot of people there, but not so many performers, so when it came time to test our knowledge of the guideposts (originally by Michael Shurtleff, with a few added on by Tom) the circle that had barely fit in the room got very small. We looked at each other, trying to name them in order one last time before being quizzed, and I am glad to say we ended up doing pretty great. I knew them a lot better than I thought I did. We also spent some time in that mini circle, saying our lines in different voices, which was really interesting, with some Shakespeare, Tchekov and some more modern playwrights all put together.
After the voicework and games, the performers had to go get into costume, then sit back and wait our turn. Or so you would think. In actuality, we enjoyed some pretty incredible scenes, then wrote down every word Tom said (or at least I did). Sometimes it feels like a revelation, other times it is something so simple that you can’t believe you haven’t been doing it your whole life. I understand why so many people come to observe, without even performing, because you learn so much from the mistakes and even the successes of others. Also, you can’t help but be inspired by the amazing, daring, awe-inspiring performances.
Lisa and I were the last two to go up, at which point we were more than ready to get it done. Watching the other scenes really makes you want to get up there! As always, I was really nervous, with a bunch of strangers, some people I had met last time, some friends, a guy from my current acting class, and even an agent to watch us.
Our scene, from Wonder of the World by David Lindsay-Abaire, begins with me pretending to be asleep while Lisa tries so hard to have a conversation. The entire scene is mostly her talking, while I either reject her, or play along. She left her husband, mine left me. She feels like she is starting her new life, while I am going to kill myself (hence the barrel you see on my lap. I plan to go over the falls in it). We chose the scene because we loved it, and it is hilarious, which the audience felt as well. I often had to wait to say my line, because they were laughing and wouldn’t have been able to hear me.
When we finished our scene (which was a personal victory, since I hadn’t even been able to finish my first line before he stopped us last time), Tom asked us how we felt it went, and I admitted to my initial fears, but we both felt it went well. We waited a few seconds, that felt much longer, for Tom to tell us what we missed, what we needed to work on, how we could improve…only it didn’t come. Usually, you do your scene once, Tom gives you some adjustments, then you do your scene again, with Tom talking you through it. I am kind of sad we didn’t get to go a second time, because I really had a blast up there, but I still haven’t been able to get rid of the smile that came when Tom told us he had no notes. Michele filmed it for me, so I will be able to relive the moment that affirmed all of my dreams, but until then, I just have bits and pieces of it floating around in my brain, quieting the voice that always tries to tell me I’m not enough. That self-conscious, always judging voice has currently been replaced with Tom’s, telling me I am delightful, and funny, that we should put up that play, that I believed it, that he enjoyed watching us… I am still living on that high, which the guy from my acting class says should last a few weeks!
The only other acting thing that happened this week is that I signed up for a casting agency, so I can go to a Casting Call at the end of March with my friend Carolyne. I am really happy she told me about it, and so excited to have a friend to go with. It seems like a really amazing opportunity, even if all i get from it is experience, but I am going to be optimistic that I can work hard, go there and impress them!
I know that voice and those fears will come back, because they always do, but now I have some ammunition to overcome it. I am so often afraid that I am chasing a dream that won’t come true, that I am fooling myself by thinking I can be an actress, but then I have an experience like this, that tells me to keep trying, and to never give up, because one day my dreams will come true. Because I can do it!
Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.