Just like that Carpenters song. . .
I am so jazzed about this "anyone can sing" experiment. I have absolutely NO idea how it's going to turn out, but I had an inspiring consultation with a prospective guinea pig today (who shall remain nameless until I ask if it's OK to blog about him/her) and I am exciiii-ted!! (Anyone who missed the last post about me being a puppy, let this be your warning.)
This project began as a redemption quest. Given my chosen line of work now, I am wracked with guilt about teasing my mother about her singing when I was a young teen (she still won't sing to herself if she knows anyone is in earshot) and I thought I'd make it up to her. She demurred my offer, but then I thought I could at least pay it forward so I started to develop a curriculum for the vehement non-singer.
Recently it's stopped being about that. My initial reasons are still important to me, but my motivation has expanded into an idealism that gets deeper and deeper every day. Self-expression is so important. And singing is, to me, such a vital part of that. I have absolutely no interest in performing, hate being in choirs, but if I thought I couldn't sing, well, I probably wouldn't be a puppy.
Talking about this today really touched something in me. When I'm going through a lot of stress in my "normal" life, or when I am distressed or hurt, or exuberant, I sing. I use it as a tool to syphon off extra energy when I'm so overjoyed I'm scared I might burst. It's a healing balm for my deepest grief. A way of reaching out to the world, even if no-one responds; I feel it resonate from my body out into the world and I feel better. I can't imagine ever being without that. I never have been. And the thought that there are people out there who don't because they're scared they sound bad or it hurts or they just never thought they could... I'm getting so worked up I can barely type. You get the idea. This is important to me. And we're going to get to give it a try! And perhaps I'll even do a little bit of good in the world while I'm at it! I am so lucky. What a gift. :)
I understand why actors get so superstitious. Why we shroud our art in mystery. It's so personal and so undefinable. Sharing it only dulls the shine. The emotional preparation work really brings this home. It's lonely.
Something I'm coming across everywhere in my own life at the moment is the loneliness that sharing brings. Counterintuitive perhaps. But one of those true life paradoxes.
Have you ever had a passionate conversation, even when you are in agreement with the other person, about something you care about deeply and it leaves you feeling depressed? I'm a puppy. I get SO excited! I'm riding this high of positive energy and passion (and sometimes the other person is even along for the ride) and then, somehow in the midst of all this, emptiness creeps in and by the time the conversation is over I am consumed by grief.
And this is when I feel, acutely, the human condition.
That large neon sign of "I AM NOT THE SAME AS YOU" placed right beside the one saying "I JUST WANT TO BE LOVED AND NOT ALONE!" I'm sure we get the little reminders of this all of the time, but when it's touching something close to my self, close to my heart, when it is related to something that I consider to be a part of me, an experience that is a piece of my "me-mosiac", that is when this feeling descends like a ton of bricks.
Experiencing it in this context makes me wonder if it comes from a lack of ownership of myself. I'm a young teacher and especially being here, surrounded by amazing, talented, experienced and wise teachers, I feel myself revisiting my highschool years, trying so hard to impress, to be like. I feel a different age depending on where I am or what I'm doing. My literal self-image changes depending on how confident I am. Sometimes I see myself as I was when I was 5, sometimes 10, sometimes 17. Sometimes even the age I am now. ;)
All this yearning to fit in and reminders of high-school make me wonder how many parts of myself I habitually compromise without even noticing. It's scary; owning something important to you. Especially with the knowledge that different things work for different people, especially with so many other opinions out there, especially fearing that you might be "wrong". I mean someone else may think I AM wrong and, for them, they may be right! Oh subjectivity is such a bitch.
I find myself thinking: "Who am I to express my opinion to the universe?"
I have such an ingrained notion that in order to deserve to put an idea out into the world you have to believe it 100%, no doubt, no room for error. Perfect confidence in whatever it is you happen to be doing at that point in your experience. A ridiculous idea. Fascist! Powerful.
Note on 28th July:
Saw this on facebook the other day, I think on Yvia's status. It's what inspired me to choose this fragment to go up next:
"The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is, indeed, the source of all anxiety." - Froom
Guinea pigs wanted!
I'm looking for volunteers to help me develop two new programs!
You get to take the new program for free in exchange for giving me feedback about what worked and what didn't!
Contact me for more information: 778 235 7696
Picking up the pieces
Returning to normal life after "Meisner camp" has been a lot harder than I had anticipated, but I am finally ready to start picking up the pieces and preparing for the workshop in August.
You always become close to the people you share workshops like this with, but the experience I had at the Meisner Certificate Training Program was much more intense than anything I've felt before. Something about the work we did there and the kind of people who are drawn to work with Larry in this way did something very special to me that I will never forget. I am comforted by the fact that we have managed to cajole Larry into offering a Part 3, which I plan on attending in January 2013.
I did a lot of writing while I was in Oregon, but not much editing or posting, so I'll be posting retroactively over the next week or two as I order my thoughts. Stay tuned.
In the meantime I feel the pangs of separation from my classmates deeply. Larry Silverberg posted this quote for us. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing:
"There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” - M Scott Peck
OK, so this is hardly scientific, but I did my little experiment today.
It actually turned out better than I had imagined because I entirely forgot to execute my plan before we did the monologues. And it went OK. I felt the beginnings of that trust, when you know you've done your work and can just let it all go. It came and went, I pushed a little. My throat hurt. For the first time in ages I was holding it all in my throat! Ah well, we're all human.
Then this evening I did an exercise with Darrelyn. This time I remembered my little experiment. I had also, when setting up my extreme circumstances that morning, dropped them into my swamp as best I could and then left them alone until it was...da da daaaaa! Time to prepare. (By the way, I'm not going into detail on any of the Meisner work because it's really not my place. If you're curious, please read Larry Silverberg's books he is so eloquent.)
And it was amazing. I did the whole thing, got into semi supine and connected. And felt very little at first. Then I let my mind wander to what I had set up that morning and it hit me like a wave. Not images like I usually get (I'm still a baby at this emotional prep stuff, it's something I've struggled wrapping my head around for years and I'm still very intellectual about it) just feeling. From there I did the preparation process that we've been exploring in class.
The coolest thing was when I got up and went to the door. I often end up in some sort of position on the floor when preparing for the deep dark stuff and I find that when I stand up my body goes into "get it together mode" and by the time I'm at the door I have to struggle to reconnect through all that social conditioning. This time, I just kept the breath connected to the swamp where my preparation was living and sure, it comes and goes and grows and shifts, but it was alive in there and SO present for the exercise that this time I really did feel I could just let it all go and be in the moment and trust.
Now this is a pretty useless comparison because it's apples and oranges. Different content, different process. But it was fun and I feel I got something from it. So I thought you might too. I for one will be dropping my preparation circumstances into my swamp from this day forward.
If you're reading words like "dropping in" or "swamp" and think I'm crazy. You might want to check out Freeing the Natural Voice or the Canada's Voice Intensive.
If you're reading words like "Meisner" or "preparation" and have no idea what I'm talking about, check out this amazing course I'm on right now through the True Acting Institute.
Not alone in being alone
I haven't acted in a long time and some of the exercises in this workshop can be quite intimidating. Sure, I've done my training and put in my time but my insecurities don't care about that. When I'm put on the spot and have nothing in the last 2 years to reference, those doubts can be awfully persuasive.
I'm sure every actor has had this experience, but it is such a gift and wonder to me every time. In the midst of all the confusion and frustration when I feel lost and like I have no idea where to go from here and I should just give up, a voice from directors past (not dead, just in the past) surfaces through the mire of experience and floats into my consciousness. Suddenly I hear the voice of a teacher or director (sometimes from more than a decade ago) clear as a bell in my ear with the perfect appropriate lesson. A nugget of gold dropped into my lap through time. And I am no longer lost. I have the key. Trust is a beautiful thing. I am so grateful to be in a place where I know if I can just hang in there and breathe the answer will come. Thank you to all my teachers and friends who have taken the time to sew wisdom into the lining of my memory, those forgotten secrets that surface at exactly the right time. You save my ass again and again.
Voice on / Voice off
In part one of the Meisner Certificate Training Program Stephanie, Ingrid and I were observing the relationship between the repetition and being "on voice". The deeper we get into the Meisner work (we just concluded week 3 of 4-phew!) the more clear this becomes to me.
I had some time this afternoon to play around with the relationship between some of the Linklater breath work and the emotional preparation work we've been doing with Larry this week. I'll be doing some field testing tomorrow when we present our monologues.... wish me luck!
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.