I suppose some people would respond to this approach well. They would act naturally, using their intuition. But not me. My response was more like this...
As I continued my singing education, I never felt confident about my acting. I thought some lucky people were just naturals at it, and I wasn't one of them. People were always telling me that my acting was a weak spot. And so I kept telling myself the same deadly words.
These insidious words stayed with me all the time. Eventually, they were what caused me to shy away from opera and pursue concert singing instead. By singing in concerts, I could avoid the scary prospect of running around onstage, doing all kinds of crazy things and acting all kinds of crazy emotions. I could essentially isolate my technique and musicianship and just be a "singing head".
|Park and bark - sounds pretty good to me!|
It's not that I don't try to act. Of course I know it's something I have to do. But I never do it with any amount of conviction. I never take risks. I never really go for it. And it shows. I'm always being told that I wasn't expressive enough, I didn't go far enough, I didn't make it big enough. It frustrates me to no end. I want so much to be that powerful actor that gives the audience goosebumps. But what really happens is that I try just hard enough so that I can tell myself I'm trying. I'm too afraid to really do it. I'm too afraid to take the plunge.
Basically, I told him a load of excuses. And he dismissed them all.
This director told me a difficult truth. A truth that's always been somewhere, tickling at the back of my mind. A truth I've always brushed away, because I didn't want to believe it, because I couldn't bear facing it, because I couldn't stand thinking about what it implied. The difficult truth is this: nobody can teach me to act. It's just something that I do. And either I do it or I don't.
In fact, the difference between acting and not acting lies in two very powerful words.
|President Obama's advice on acting.|
For those of you who don't know, Prince Orlovsky is the host of the big party in Die Fledermaus. He's a very strange man, and a complete alcoholic. In his aria, he explains that if his guests don't keep up with his drinking he will throw them out the door. So basically I had to act drunk and aggressive, and make my imaginary guests feel as uncomfortable as possible.
I had a long table and some chairs to work with. And as a starting point - this is just a starting point, mind you - the director told me to try prowling around on top of the table like a lion.
|Prince Orlovsky meets the Lion King.|
I prowled around like a lion on top of the table. I swiped at imaginary guests with my paws. I took off my shoes and threw them away. I rolled around in a drunken stupor.
I stopped worrying about doing things right and lived in the moment. And you know what? It was pretty good fun.
In retrospect, I think it was the first time that I really acted.
|Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Stage.|
The words you say to yourself are incredibly powerful. They have a strong influence on how you think and act. If you turn "I can't" into "I can", eventually you will start to think and act like someone who can. But only you have the power to make this change.
When I gave up singing and went into arts administration, I remember that a small part of me hoped that someone would try to stop me. A small part of me wanted someone to say "no, you are a really good singer and you can't give up". But nobody did this for me. Nobody told me I should keep pursuing singing. That was something I had to figure out on my own.
When it comes down to it, there is only so much encouragement and motivation that you can expect from your friends, your teachers, and your mentors. When it comes down to it, you have to be the ones who believes in yourself. You have to be the one who says "I can". Once you say that, and really believe it, you will be amazed by just how true it is.