Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Observer (written June 2nd, 2007)

I accidentally posted the unfinished version of this post but since I deleted that, here's the (more) finished product...

All my life, I have been an observer. It is my nature to sit on the sidelines and watch the lives and actions of the people around me. My watching used to be a substitute for living my own life, but as I am now living my life (and pretty fully, I think) I have found that I still watch those around me. These people are my teachers…my friends and family, my neighbours and peers, mentors and heroes. Some I know intimately, some are complete strangers to me.

Last night we opened a show. Weeks of rehearsal finally came to a conclusion and afterwards everyone, cast, crew and audience, gathered outside to celebrate. I found myself, like usual, on the edges watching the main group happily chatting and interacting with each other. I am quite happy to be on the edge watching – it’s less overwhelming for me – but sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out on something. Every party, every social gathering, I skirt the main event and watch the other people. I watch the event instead of being a part of the event.

I’ve tried to be in the centre. I just can’t manage it. The mere thought fills me with a panic, a sense of being overwhelmed and overpowered, of losing my self, and what if I never find me again? It’s taking me long enough as it is. It sounds unreasonable, but being that surrounded by noise and breath and other heartbeats scares me.

I know I’m not alone. At one party several years ago, I met another person on the sidelines who nodded in understanding when I confided my fear of the centre. A whirlwind trip in and then back to the calm – that was how he navigated the chaos too.

I’m not afraid of the people, I try to explain. I just don’t understand the appeal of surrounding myself with them. I don’t want to. It’s uncomfortable to me. I sometimes wonder what it’s like to be at home in the middle of the craziness. I see friends laughing, alive in the element that spells death to me, and I wonder what it would be like to be there and not drowning in the noise.

But I don’t wonder enough to fight my nature and be one of the observed.

In the worlds of both science and mystery they say that the mere act of observing has a tangible effect on the observed. Watching something or someone, even if they don’t know it, has measurable consequences.

So I’ll play my part and watch.

And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll see the results of my observation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Inheritance (written the week of May 21st, 2007)

Another of the posts I wrote during my absence...

I sat down to write some lame explanation for why I haven’t written here for a while. It’s not even that I haven’t been writing because I have been. I just haven’t been posting what I’ve written. Getting to the office (where the internet is) while it’s open was challenging (well, damn near impossible) because I was in full-time rehearsals for four weeks. I enjoyed myself. After a hiatus from acting, the passion burned brightly again. I learned so much, and I have so much more to learn – but instead of being overwhelming that thought simply makes me smile with anticipation.

But back to the lame explanation. As I sat down to write it I saw my new desktop. I like using photos for my desktop. My last two desktops were headshots of myself, which prompted my mother to say that only an actor could be egotistical enough to have their own face on their computer desktop. I am one of the few women who thinks she is beautiful, and both of those photos showed that wonderfully – they were beautiful pictures of a beautiful woman. However, when I decided to change my desktop yesterday my mother’s words whispered in my head. It helped that I was bored with my own image, so I turned away from the headshots and instead chose one of myself and my brothers, taken by one of my parents last Christmas. It is also a beautiful photo. My two much taller brothers are holding me so that it appears that we are all the same height, although in reality I am sitting on a cradle made out of their hands.

Anyone looking at the photo would see two young men and a young woman, all with the same blue eyes and soft pink gentle lips, all with the same definition to their cheekbones and jaw-lines. The two men have the same nose, the girl’s nose is similar but feminine, with one nostril slightly collapsed on itself. Their hair is different – a red-head and two brunettes, one in mid-tones and one dark, but even in that darkness the German ancestors leave their fair mark.

You don’t see how their personalities mesh and differentiate, as all sibling personalities do. You can’t see how they all have a creative bent. You can’t see how they all have completely different ways of showing that. Things like that aren’t really visible, but that’s okay. That’s why people get to know each other, after all.

Looking at this picture was the first time I saw that I do share facial features with my brothers. We’ve been told all our lives that we look like my father’s people. That is a definite fact – at the last family gathering I went to I saw our lips and bone structures on every side – although our faces hold evidence from my mother’s input too. I’ve never really seen a similarity between my brothers and myself until I chose that photo for my desktop.

It somehow roots me to see that my brothers and I look like our family. It reminds me that there is life outside of learning lines and blocking and finding the lights.

Which is a good thing to be reminded of, I think.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

To Love An Artist (written the week of May 7th, 2007)

I've been writing and now I have time to post...so here is one of the three posts I wrote in the past month...

When I was at home in May my mother asked me if I thought it was easier or more difficult to be in a relationship with a fellow artist.

I gave her a very long answer, with the phrase ‘it has different challenges’ in it somewhere.

I had just helped a fellow student with a show called “The Last Five Years”, a story of two artists who try to join their lives and passions only to see their union unravel into chaos and heartbreak. This is a story I see told over and over again, in many mediums and with many variations. Artists faced with a choice between love and relationship or their art and what makes them feel alive. Sometimes they choose love. Sometimes they choose their art. Sometimes they strive for both.

Some succeed. Most seem to fail.

I watch the people around me and I realize that in real life things aren’t laid out so clearly. In real life the choice isn’t posed so gracefully. In reality there are so many reasons behind why one relationship fails and another goes the distance. A relationship doesn’t die solely because one person is jealous of a stage kiss. The stress of auditioning over and over isn’t enough to tear two people apart without other, more invisible problems underneath. In real life, you aren’t just two artists. You’re two people like everyone else.

I’ve seen a lot of relationships go down in flames here – fledgling loves that never got out of the nest as well as established relationships that have flown for years. I’ve heard stories of bigger train wrecks that happened before I got to this town. I know there are heartbreaks that I don’t know about.

I’ve seen relationships last too. There is one couple here who both work in the theatre. He is a stage manager and actor. She is a lighting designer and stage manager. I have babysat their three beautiful children, and they have another on the way. They somehow make it work.

There is another couple here that I don’t know as well. They both act, write, and direct. They also have two small children. They also somehow make it work.

I go through the families in this town and it seems that every single one is involved with the theatre on some level. Increasingly it seems that everyone I know is an artist in some way. And yes, one couple is in the midst of a divorce. But so many more of them seem to be fighting through to keep their love alive and kicking.

My friend, roommate, and fellow actress L. is getting married to an actor, K. I hope they are one of the couples who last. I’ve seen L. go through a long, blurry relationship that ended painfully. I’ve seen K. do the same thing. I hope that doesn’t happen this time.

And as I watch I realize that my answer to my mother was not completely accurate.

I wonder if the search for authenticity in art conflict with the search for everlasting love. The journey that acting requires – demands – is difficult and painful. Even a relationship with a non-actor can crash and burn when the constant auditioning, rejection and frustration wears on an actors soul. With two people going through that, it could bring you together or tear you apart. If one of you finds success, the other could be there to support and share in the joy – but the seeds of bitterness could root; and if both of you find the spotlight you could end up being busy and drifting apart into the arms of (seemingly) understanding cast mates.

But can’t those things happen to anyone? I know that other people don’t deal with some of the externals, but can’t anyone get too busy to be in love? Can’t anyone get jealous of their love’s success? Can’t anyone get turned off by their partner’s burnout? I can’t shut up the stubborn voice of hope, that voice that tells me that just because it could go sour doesn’t mean it will. All people risk in love. That is what love is.

And that is what art is too.

Most people don’t have to face life as honestly as an actor is encouraged to. Most people don’t use their emotions intentionally on a daily basis, much less as a part of their job. But perhaps, if you go in knowing that, it can end up being a good thing for both people.

I watch. I ponder. And I cling to hope.

And I think I would now tell my mother that relationship is relationship. In a strange way it doesn’t matter what you do…what matters is who you are, and how honest and true you can be to yourself.

And isn’t that what life, love and art are really all about?