Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why THIS blog...

A year ago I had the good fortune of being asked to be Helena in an Alumni scene of FPU's Midsummer Night's Dream.

That set off an amazing chain of events which started by me Googling "Shakespeare in Fresno" 
which led me to audition for the Woodward Shakespeare Festival 
which led me to meet my now friend and mentor Heather Parish. 
which resulted in me being cast for three shakespeare-related shows in five months

Heather has a propensity to push people to do things they don't know they can. This is evidenced by her comment to me that I could make my own Regency dress for a Jane Austen Festival with not much effort at all. That little nudge led me on a very fulfilling sewing journey. Now she has cast me in a high-intensity show called "a Picasso" which is pushing me in so many more ways.

I'm not a leading lady.  I'm just.. not. This is new, and scary, and mind-blowing to me. My insecurities led Heather to publish a very public letter to me (and to all actors) asking what I was afraid of.

She asks:
What is most important? That you take action or that you succeed at it? That you are making choices or that the choices are approved of? That you practice bravery or that you practice security? That you do something interesting or that you do something correctly? That you share yourself with the world or that the world comes to you?

Here was my response to her:

I really feel that this past year has been a series of stretching myself towards doing things that terrify me. Taking the action is important for me, just to prove that it is possible for me, ME to do it. I remember the first time I actually got cast in a play; After four years of advanced drama classes yet never being cast in a Buchanan production, I remember getting a part at FPU and thinking, "Holy crap, how do I even know I can memorize a lead part? What if my brain can't even RETAIN all that information?" I thought I would fall flat on my face, but I didn't, and it wasn't until five of us broke up the entire Book of Acts and performed THE BIBLE, word for word that I felt I could memorize anything. I guess I have to reach true difficulty before I feel I have mastered something.

I have discovered about myself in this past year that acting (and sewing) are the only areas of my life that I actually enjoy and look forward to criticism. (Remember when you had a note for my in GNDGMJ and I lit up as I mouthed "Thank you!!!"). At work I get nervous that an evaluator might give me a note on my teaching because I feel that there is no going back and fixing it for those students. Their learning on that day, or that year has already occurred when the feedback is given. How I handled a situation in that instance is static and can't be reshaped in the mind of the student. It kills me thinking I may have botched the learning of hundreds and hundreds of students, and therefore, squirm about receiving specific feedback on that particular lesson.

However, with acting, every single note given not only shapes the next performance, but can also be applied to acting as a whole. I will never forget how upset you were about those sunglasses I left onstage during Merchant. I was devastated that I hadn't thought about retrieving them, but I had never had a situation like that come up before and needed that one lesson to help me on my way. I was so proud during the recent Gerstenberg one-act I did when I completely demolished Julia's teacup onstage: Since I was a houseguest in the skit, I rushed to pick up all the pieces as I uttered a million "pardons".  I came away from the situation feeling so confident that I had put into practice a new idea I had learned: To react and use everything to fuel future choices! With Picasso, I look forward to being pushed to consider new choices I have not explored before. I also look forward to creating and developing aspects of the character's background that the audience may never even see. But most of all I look forward to playing with relationships. This play is so much a tug-of-war where every word is a deliberate choice made in order to advance one more handgrip on the rope.

The thing I am hung-up on is the second part of your question: What's important, that I take action or that I succeed at it. Well, yes, it is important for me to succeed. I have failed at many things in my life: I was laughed out of karate class, I had a piano teacher who scolded me for bombing at recitals because I made him look bad to his peers.

I am not so much concerned about critical acclaim or receiving the commendations of my peers, but I do need to feel that I have not failed at this task. What that looks like for me is this:

1) Did I take risks with the character that came across to the audience?
2) Did I put into practice things I never expected that I, MYSELF could do?
3) Did I complete each performance with consistency?
4) Did I give my scene partner something to work with, that he could use to motivate his actions?

But most important, and probably most silly... did I not let down the people who have trusted me and put their effort into my performance? I realize this is probably the most controversial of my definition of success, but know that I am included in this list of people. I do not want to let myself down. I love Miss Fischer, and this play. I tear-up every time I read the part about how futile art is if no one is alive to enjoy it. However, I don't want to let you down, or Jag, or Rico... all people who are investing their soul into this play.

So, I can't say this is just about taking action for me. It's also about succeeding, just not in the "pat on the back" kind of way.

This has fueled me to think more about myself as an "actress," though I still hesitate to call myself that. This blog is a very personal attempt to think aloud and find myself.

1 comment:

  1. Chelsea~ I applaud your openness and willingness to process this journey out in the open through this blog. An online scrapbook/journal can be a great tool for processing the challenges and insights of creativity and performance. You have so much inside of you that you're just beginning to discover and you're heading in the right direction. (Just pace yourself, my dear!).

    I love this quote from Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela):

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Always consider that when you wonder if you are too "odd" for the real world. The work you do on the fullness of you manifests in every other thing you do-- in the classroom, in your marriage, in your church. To discover and enrich yourself is to enrich the world.