Letting Go

(“Metamorphoses” opens June 21, 2013 at Georgia Shakespeare.)

The show is almost open, so it seems like as good a time as any to have a little chat about insecurity.

Travis and Park working on a physical lift; Richard explains the image he wants to see.

Travis and Park working on a physical lift; Richard explains the image he wants to see.

All actors have it, at least all the actors I know.  I don’t know if audiences realize how hard we work to make everything look easy, to make it appear as if we are saying each word for the first time.  We want you to believe our lines just occurred to us, when in fact they are part of a carefully crafted piece of writing.  We want to dazzle you with physical actions, yet make them look as effortless as walking down the street.  This requires a unique combination of preparation and spontaneity, a mix of precision and wild abandon.  

Chris and Joe working on a fight scene; stage combat is very carefully choreographed.

Chris and Joe working on a fight scene; stage combat is carefully choreographed.

We spent weeks in the rehearsal hall working every little gesture and utterance, finding nuances, figuring out how to tell these stories through our bodies and voices.  Now we’ve been in the theater for a week, adding the spectacular elements of lights, sound, music, props, costumes, and – amazingly – water.  We are still taking time every afternoon to work out details.  Are we pronouncing all of our final consonants?  Are we “landing” the physical gestures?  Literally the turn of a head can make a difference.

Inevitably, we fail.  I missed a head-turn in Thursday’s preview.  I knew it the minute it happened.  All I could do was make a mental note and move on, but at the moment it seemed like proof that, in fact, I do not know what I’m doing and do not belong on the professional stage.

Oh yes, the insecurity is always there, lurking in the back corners of my brain, ready to jump on any small mistake and turn it into an insurmountable obstacle.  “This is it,” the voice tells me.  “This is the play that will reveal your inadequacy.  People are finally going to realize that you can’t act.  End of career.”  I have been a professional actor for most of my adult life, and I still notice when McDonald’s is hiring.  I might need a job to fall back on.

But something keeps me coming back to the stage, and I think the insecurity is part of the appeal.  I feel compelled to try again, night after night, for perfection, knowing that I will never attain it.  Acting requires me to show up completely prepared, then let go and see what happens.  It is incredibly complicated, and infuriatingly simple. 

I will never be good enough.  And I will always try. 

See you at opening night.


5 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. This reminds me of something I read in acting class, something that either Adler or Meisner said about acting: we will never be good enough and we will spend our entire lives trying to perfect a talent that can never be perfected. And that it sucks and it’s heartbreaking at times, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things ever, because we will always be learning where other people in other careers inevitably stop learning at some point. Acting is the most human trade of all, I think. Insecurity is part of what makes it that way.

    That being said, if you ever got a job at Mickey D’s, please give me free food.

  2. And I thought I was the only one who noticed the McDonald’s hiring sign and made a mental note that if my thirty-seven year teaching career didn’t work out, there was always Mickey Dee’s. Small world. “You want fires with that?”

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