Last night was the first rehearsal for a new play I'm in called Ideal Beauty and I have to be honest, I felt really out of sorts. I didn't feel connected to my instincts, I felt myself falling into inexperienced actor traps, and I was very self conscious. It's been a few months since I've worked but really? Yikes.
My first thought when I got home was to rehearse more even though it was now 10:15p and I was up since 5:30a. Then I realized that wasn't the answer. I needed to relax and be with my fear. I thought about what I was afraid of and the list was this:
- I forgot how to act
- I'm going to suck next week
- My whole dream is based on fantasy and I'm really not talented enough
- I am not right for the role
- I'll play it boring and it won't be special
I felt myself missing the opportunities to find many varied colors and feelings, as well as the humor that's in this piece. Then I realized that this was my first rehearsal and it takes time for things to come together. I also remembered how I work, specifically. I have a tendency to start going to deep places sooner than the character would get there based on the text or given circumstances. In other words, I start performing the subtext quickly instead of letting it build or unfold. It's an interesting thing because when I put that away and find a lighter, more on-the- surface expression, that deeper stuff is already built into the character and usually how she really feels underneath it all, even if she isn't aware of it and certainly isn't saying it directly. Maybe it's an inside out approach or something. I don't know if that makes sense but I know what I mean. (It's my job to write and communicate so you do as well and I apologize if I am falling short this morning!)
When I got home, I just kind of mulled around in my fear. Fun way to spend a Tuesday night but it was late so we're only talking about 30 minutes or so before I fell asleep. I said to myself that whatever the worst case scenario is I can handle it but I am going to do exactly what I know how to do in favor of the outcome I desire.
I woke up this morning and went to work on the text. I'm so grateful that I got right inside the character and I cracked it open in a few parts. I felt it all open up and I began to feel a much stronger sense of connection. I feel SO much better now. I know who she is and what she wants in this scene. Do I still have some fear? Yes. Is it less? Yes. I think I'm pacing right on schedule for show time which is a week from today.
The play is called Ideal Beauty by Danielle Sonnenberg. She is a journalist who interviewed women about subjects related to beauty, femininity and desire, after which point she wrote 5 monologues based on what the women said. They deal with a lot of themes that women go through every day, including being an object of the male gaze, which I used to write about when I was in college studying feminist film theory. Laura Mulvey "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" I remember, ha! Good times.
We live in a society that is very much built around the assumption that women are meant to be looked at by men. Conversely, women are not meant to be looking at men to the same degree. It's funny because we have that phrase, "She's a looker!" but it should be, "She's a lookee!" because what we're saying is she's really someone to be looked AT. Women who look are still considered pioneers. Women who say F You, don't look at me, are also still considered groundbreaking as well, as are the ones who say Look, don't look! Look, don't look! so it tells me we have some work to do to challenge what is still in many cases accepted as natural and just part of the social order.
That's why it's so important to see women directors and women in positions of power who look out at the establishment(s) with penetrating eyes. Women as key decision makers. Women who are ready to be unseen behind the camera (literal or metaphorical) NOT because the are devoicing or stepping passively into the background, no, but because they are choosing to occupy a perspective and point of view dominated by men.
I'm reminded of the quote:
When a man gets up to speak, people listen then look. When a woman gets up, people look, then, if they like what they see, they listen.
I know I am hardly alone when I admit I have a tendency to judge my looks critically and harshly. I am in the company of a lot of women who, when we fail to live up to certain standards we observe around us, feel inadequate and, as a result, weaker than we really are. The writer of the play last night said that someone told her that one of the best ways to get things done is to work on what you're obsessed with. I love it! She's obsessed with these questions and themes, so she conducted interviews and is developing an original play out of them. Inspirational. For me, I am obsessed with, well, with a lot of things honestly but let's start with my obsession with becoming less critical of and hard on myself and releasing judgments about my appearance that I've internalized and seem to be stuck to my soul like rubber cement.
I'm so sure that I am on a path to self acceptance, praise and peace. It's what I'm drawn to now and I'm grateful I am learning to let go of judgment and find ways to see myself through loving eyes. When I get to those places when I just feel all calm and good with who I am, ah, it's great! If it can happen in a room full of men and women, all the better, but sometimes it's just me chilling by myself and I believe that's a fine place to start. I work with affirmations but I think it's almost more powerful sometimes when there are no words spoken. Self acceptance and being in the absence words...
And while for me that doesn't mean rejecting fashion or make-up, lovvvvely hair or manicures (occasionally but I still have no patience for them unless I'm with a friend), it does mean getting very connected to a state of mind and heart that is full of love. From there, I look at myself, and by extension of that I can look at other women, with positive emotion as opposed to self loathing or envy.
It's not everyday we think about these things and I am grateful to be part of a production that explores and raises these issues and new points of view! I hope to see you on Wed., 10/13. The show starts at 8pm and tix are FREE. Email email@example.com to RSVP by 10/10.