Saturday, October 17, 2009

Playing against type

Phew [wipes sweat theatrically from brow]. I've just completed a four-day intensive acting course. After my well-rehearsed but poorly-acted Shakespeare monologue on the second day, the famously cruel director of the school made me sit down and asked me why I'd come on the course. I had been utterly petrified, to the point where I was on the verge of tears and/or fainting, and it showed. I got the words out, and they were "immaculate" according to him, but I was so paralysed with terror that I could only stand there like a post.

I'm pretty sure Juliet would have been pacing, flitting to the window and back, and making gestures of impatience as she waits for the nurse to return with a message from her beloved Romeo. But the most I could manage was to swivel my torso from left to right. My feet might as well have been super-glued to the ground.

Why? Why put myself through that? That's what I've been asking myself all week. But apart from that horrible moment (and it was only a moment), the rest of the course was really quite good fun. For me, as I tried to explain to the director, it was a kind of personal challenge - my own personal Everest, if you like (well, maybe just Base Camp). For an introvert like me, the thought of performing in front of an audience is far more challenging than the prospect of climbing a mountain. I know I could train to climb a mountain, and make sure I had the right equipment and support. The thought of it doesn't scare me at all. Even jumping off a waterfall didn't compare in the fear stakes to what I went through this week.

Before I went on the course, I would never have imagined that I could sing on my own in front of an entire class, or complete a serious dramatic scene in front of a small audience. For me, just getting through it was a little victory.

I particularly enjoyed the stage-fighting - especially the fencing - and the game of theatrical wink-murder we played afterwards. I thought my "stabbbed in the back" was really quite convincing. But my favourite part - which the teacher assured us was everyone's favourite part by the end of the four days - was the musical number. We learned "A Real Nice Clam-bake" from Carousel, and then performed it as a group, each of us singing a solo line or two from the verses. It left me on a wonderful, warm-hearted high. Maybe that's the point of musicals - they are much more fun for the actors than they are for the audience.

One of the boys from the class - a sweetheart who reminded me a lot of Omar from The Wire - told me afterwards that I should think about getting into some am-dram. I would have laughed and told him he was crazy a week ago, but now I find myself considering it.

Maybe I should start a theatre group for introverts. The In Crowd? Let Us Intertain You? If we could get the audience to sit behind a one-way mirror and not make any noise, it might just work.


Andrea said...

I can relate 2 the introverted performer conundrum. What do U do when your dream conflicts with your personality! My solution is 2B very well rehearsed so U can rely on auto-pilot infront of an audience.

Anna said...

I know how you feel - I'm a bit of an introvert too, although friends don't always agree with me. Well done on going to that course and confronting the fear.

When I was younger (a lot younger... where are the years going?!) I sang in a band or two, even acted a little in local drama group musicals to audiences of 100-300. I loved it. I even really loved debating at high school. But one day, I don't know what happened, I became shy. Now the thought of standing in front of people performing, or even speaking, makes me incredibly nervous. Maybe I should look for something similar here.

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