I was explaining to my friend Ashley (who isn’t an actor) how it feels in those moments in the wings before I step on stage. It’s hard to explain how time slows, how I breathe in magic from the air and relax into a state of present focus. No matter how little sleep I have had over the rehearsal process I feel a bottomless well of inspiration, energy, enthusiasm and fight open up below my feet and I know it will be there as long as I need it. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt and I know that I can give my scene partner everything that I’ve got to the very last drop.
Ashley casually asked why it is I don’t approach the rest of my life that way.
The question floored me. I didn't have an answer for him at the time. It had never even occurred to me that I could apply the same principles of joy, focus and energy to my real-life goals! But why not? What other opportunities have I been passing up because I had forgotten that all the world is a stage?
Recently I have been working a lot. Long days with little sleep. At first it was difficult and a few weeks in I could feel my energy waning. I could feel the familiar shaky, over-worked, stressed out feeling that I associate with approaching burn-out. Failure and despair were imminent and I was very ready to give up and crawl into
a hole somewhere. But Ashley’s question kept nibbling away at my consciousness.
Actors: Do you know that feeling when you've worked hard all day, every day for ages? You’ve voluntarily put yourself through the emotional wringer and you keep coming back for more and at the end of each day you're just wreaked. I know I’m doing my job right when it feels like I’ve lived out every possible emotion in the whole of human history in one afternoon; my body and your soul are raw and I have no idea what I‘m doing, nor who I am or how I feel because I left everything I had up there on the stage.
You get where this is going? The body sore, frustrated to tears, utterly lost and alone burn-out feeling I get from pushing myself in my life is the same feeling! The only difference is that in my life I expect to have the answers. I want to see the product and feel like I’m composed and in control. So. If I can surrender and trust the process on stage and in an acting class and LOVE it, in theory I can do the same with my life.
I’ve been pushing for a few months now. The exhaustion and the drive come and go. I’m not yet at the point where I’m approaching my life with the vigorous joyful surrender as I do a performance, but I have moments. The muscle memory is building,
I’m looking forward to waking up one morning, putting my feet on the floor and seeing that limitless well of inspiration, energy, fight and enthusiasm open up before my feet and knowing that it will be there as long as I need it to be.
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Danielle Benzon coaches entrepreneurs and performing artists in voice, acting and audition technique. She is also certified to teach the Meisner Approach through the True Acting Institute. Danielle is based in Vancouver, Canada.