Exotic Baby Animals

16 07 2011

I had a dream last night that I had ordered a deluxe package of exotic baby animals.  I received:

1.  A baby cheetah

2.  A baby jaguar

3.  A baby grizzly bear

4.  A baby black bear

5.  A baby snake (green mamba?)

6.  A baby mole

They came all together in one package and were VERY TINY.  However, by the very next day I started to worry about these little beasts.  The baby bears had tripled in size overnight, and were beginning to scratch everything up – including me.  The snake was, well a snake.  The cheetah and jaguar were already showing murderous instincts.

I knew it was time to call animal control and have them hauled away to a zoo, or back to the wild.  (An earlier part of the dream in which a friend of mine has ALSO gotten one exotic baby animal hauled away, informed me that it would only be $5.)  I wasn’t worried about the $5 to have the animals hauled away, I was worried about telling my friends.  I knew I would be so embarrassed that I had ever purchased the animals in the first case.

Hmmmm.  Lots of interesting messages there.  Wanting exotic things that I shouldn’t have and that will ultimately hurt me (a film career??), being embarrassed when I am unable to keep my exotic animals because they are out of control and ultimately NOT what I wanted.  (I am often embarrassed by the film/tv business.  I think I have a role, and then I don’t.  I plan my life around it, then find it doesn’t want me.  I think often that others must be laughing at me – that I cannot catch my dreams.  This has been a part of my life always – this hyper self-consciousness.  This caring what others think of me.  It’s an awful way to be.  But I think it is also paired with my hyper-sensitivity… which allows me to access what I need to to be a good actress.  Trade off?)

SO, that was interesting.

The latest in the Uta Hagen book, RESPECT FOR ACTING, has got me buzzing as usual.  When teaching, and indeed when acting, I am alarmed by other teachers and actors who seem to embrace this idea of “becoming someone else.”  I mean, ultimately, yes – you want to be true to the character give to you by the writer.  However, Uta has helped me put into words why this “character outside of yourself” is actually an erroneous, and possibly untruthful way to go about characterization.

Here is the quote from her book:

“To seem to want or need a mask behind which to bury one’s self often comes, not only from an incorrect concept, but from a distrust in ourselves.  We harbor the suspicion that we ourselves are boring, and that only the character in the play is sufficiently interesting enough to hold an audience.”

I often hear a student say, “This character is so different from me, I am not like _______.  How am I going to approach this character?”  I admit having the same fears myself.  But the truth is, you have everything within you to get to the root of any character – no matter how “different” this character may seem from the real “you” on the surface.  I believe that acting is not a process of masking and covering, but a process of stripping away, becoming skinless, a live nerve, digging around till you find those aspects of yourself that identify directly with the character.  Then, we have that lovely process – REHEARSAL – to help us ground that character in the text and the circumstances.

Another quote from Uta’s book:

“We must learn to understand and accept the facets of ourselves which we don’t wish to recognize – shyness, selfishness, greed, envy, panic, lack of control, stupidity, etc – and, in admitting to them, enlarge our capacity for identification.  Above all, we must become self-observant enough not only to recognize our needs and define our feelings, but to connect them to the behavior which ensues.”


This all presupposes, I think, that you ARE YOURSELF WHEN NOT OFFSTAGE.  I have been known to say “I hate actors”.  By this I mean those actors who are ALWAYS acting.  Who are mannered, who talk too loudly all the time, who need to be the center of attention at all moments of life, who are affected, who think fabulously of themselves.  I wonder how an actor who is acting all the time can ever really be truthful onstage?  How can you bring characters forth from YOU if YOU are copies of mannerisms of those you adore, collections of syndromes you believe “serious” actors should have”, if every sigh, thought, word, and gesture is a copy of a copy?

First and foremost, actors must be real about who they are.  And aware of their innermost self.  (I recommend A NEW EARTH – to a certain extent. 🙂 )

Secondly, actors have to cultivate enough bravery to believe they CAN find all they need within themselves AND the courage to SHOW IT TO STRANGERS… ON A STAGE.  Finally, an actor needs to somehow balance this courage, with remaining vulnerable to be accessible to the work.  It’s a delicate process.

I love what I do.



2 responses

17 07 2011

Really resonated with the last part on “hating actors.” I’ve sometimes wondered if I could really be an actress since that type of behavior really really gets to me and I find it so wearing,, on the other hand, it’s encouraged me to operate from a deeply truthful place as an actor- and now to encourage that openness and vulnerability in my students.

18 07 2011

I think that the fear of others laughing at us is something that everyone goes through. But I’ll pull a Byron Katie for a second and say, twist that. How much time do you spend really exerting energy to laugh at someone else when something they want doesn’t happen to them. You might give a minute of tut tut, but we are pretty egocentric beings and are much more worried about us. I think it’s human nature to fear the ridicule of others. None of us laugh or snide when you don’t get a job. We are disappointed for you. I think you and I both need to learn when to call Animal Control more often! Love to you!

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