Acting can be really tough sometimes. Whether it’s that one line you never get right (for me there’s one for every show and I lovingly call it the ‘oh fuck’ line), or the part of your scene you just can’t get the emotions perfect, or that quick costume change from hell. Acting has its moments….for sure. It pushes you, it grows you, it’s uncomfortable at times, but if you’re open to it you always walk away a better performer than you started.
I’m not saying every boundary needs to be pushed. Or that discomfort and awkwardness should be required from any performer. By all means – every performer needs to take care of themselves and make sure that they are comfortable on and off stage. But no performer should ever be stagnant. Art is about putting yourself out there, allowing people to see your performance, and being organic about it. Personally, I try to use every show to gain a new skill or insight. I try different reads on characters, different stage movements, I push myself to really get to the heart of my character. Getting on stage is a way to explore, a way to experience things that may not be possible in your sphere of existence or even reality. Good art helps you grow while you work on it – you put yourself into your piece and things just start…happening. You both influence and are influenced by what you do in art or in this specific case….theater.
Art isn’t safe. The cast and the crew will give you a space to feel safe in – but art in itself is not ‘safe’ if you want to basically show up and play yourself. On stage, you will sometimes do stuff that you feel really silly doing, or say lines that are controversial, or wear a costume that is designed to really really really stand out and not always in the nicest of ways. You WILL mess up your lines – in my case at least once per run of a show. You WILL botch an entrance, or forget a prop, or something won’t work, or the cue you wait for never comes. Mistakes are inevitable. As a perfectionist I can promise you living through those mistakes is not always easy – but it is important to accept they will happen. I once was onstage as Puck and Oberon’s wig came flying off in the performance and I had to NOT break character despite uproariously loud laughter coming from the audience and no feasible way to make it look like what happened was intended in any way shape or form, it was a moment of panic for both of us but we kept rolling. Theater will put you in situations like that – where there’s no other option but to keep in character and go on – without showing you are going ‘OH SHIT OH SHIT’ in your head. You will grow through them, you will move on. The most dangerous thing you can ever do in a rehearsal or on stage – is to stop, freeze, and get upset that things are not going perfectly.
Art is not safe for someone who will not grow, for someone who will not learn to be like water and keep on flowing no matter what happens. Art is a supportive community that allows a safe space for you to try new things – you can try five different reads of a character in rehearsal, you can try various light cues or costume choices. But art is not a safe space for someone who wants to walk out the door the exact same person as when they walked in.