It’s Week Two of Eric Ankrim’s Spring Intensive. By now I can make it to Seattle in record time, and it no longer takes me half an hour to figure out which one-way street I need to turn down to get to the parking garage. Once I park my car I take my weekly Snapchat of the 5th Avenue Theatre, and I head down stairs through code-protected hallways until I reach the green room where I then sit and wait for class to begin. Although I’m getting the hang of the city, I still make sure to get to class an entire hour before it starts to avoid any sort of late-walking-into-the-classroom-oh-my-God-everyone-is-looking-at-me-oh-God-no-I’m-so-embarrassed-I-might-actually-die-oh-God-goodbye-forever situations.
On Tuesday we tackled Shakespeare monologues, which let me tell you are SO DIFFICULT. (My own was a monologue from Antony and Cleopatra.) The hardest thing about Shakespeare is that when the plays were first written, audiences came to the show to hear the text. Not see the text. As actors we are trained over and over again to have stage presence, to do something with your arms, to cheat out, to turn downstage, etc. Physical aspects are drilled into our brains over and over again. Of course these elements are still present in Shakespeare, but the main focus is the text. With gorgeous lines filled to the brim with alliteration and antithesis, we must use these words to not only convey emotion and rawness but also to put energy out into the world. If there was ever a time to be bold and brave with your words, performing Shakespeare would pretty much be it.
Then on Thursday we had SONG DAY NUMBER TWO. This last class was beautiful to me in so many ways. I, as a performer, had a major breakthrough. Before singing in front an audience, let alone a group of professionals, I used to get major anxiety as I mentioned in my most recent blog: I Enjoy Being a Girl. Like crazy intense re-evaluating my life choices sort of anxiety. Then after an audition/performance I would tear myself apart with all the things I messed up on and I would think, “Why am I choosing to do this over and over again if I feel absolutely terrible going in and out of any performance?” But for some reason this week it just clicked in my head that I cannot keep this thought process up. It was every kind of toxic I could put my psyche under. I was sick and tired of viewing my world as one of judgement and negativity. So I decided to change the conversation.
These are the things I chose to repeat to myself every time I felt those negative thoughts creep into my mind:
- The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday. You are not like anyone else, and no one else is like you. Stop comparing, and just be you.
- If you prepare and research and practice, you’ve done the work and there’s simply no more you can do than just walk into the room and own it.
- Instead of being product minded, focus on the message. Honesty is the reason for art.
- Find the love. Love for the song. Love for the art. Love for you in all your imperfections.
And… I did it. I done did a song. I sang Everything Else from Next to Normal. (Catch a snippet that my lovely classmate filmed of me here: https://youtu.be/Wdxpgk_ISRU ) And this moment was so precious to me. It was the first time I sang to have fun and to be free since I can remember. I haven’t felt this way about my singing for years, and it finally felt like everything fit.
Nothing was perfect.
And I was okay. Those few minutes I sang in front of that class felt like stepping onto a stage I finally thought I belonged on. Once I was done singing, I was so elated I could barely even focus on the words Eric was speaking to me. (Thank goodness it was filmed so I could watch it back.) And, I left class feeling on top of the world. Week two and I feel like a star? I can hardly wait for the next.