Friday, April 3, 2015

"Wanting To Be What You Never Really Wanted To Be"

The following line is to be read with a surrendering bewilderment.

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, goodie!  It’s an ‘I Don’t Know’ Day!”

You like those?

“Are you kidding?  Who doesn’t like manufactured humility?  I can go two ways and be better than you – actual humility, or a confident certainty.  Either way – unlike ‘literary posturing’ – it is the genuine article.”

You see through me every time.  May I continue?

“Be my guest, you big phony.”

Thank you.

I don’t know.  But it would appear to me that at least to some degree everybody wants to be noticed.  If not “globally noticed”, at least by their parents, their peers, the family house pet – somebody.

You come into the house and your budgie chirps – “Great!  A feathered creature just acknowledged my existence.”

That’s at the minimum.  There is a name for people who want to be globally noticed.

They’re called actors.

Which is what I once wanted to be.

Or at least thought I did.

The evidence of that intention is scattered in the moldering remnants of my biographical history.  Nearing college graduation, I scoured the University of Toronto library, searching for syllabi for post-graduate acting schools, discovering in 1966, outdated catalogues from the 1940’s.  (When they were disseminated, we were still fighting Hitler.)

The summer I graduated, I attended the eight-week-long Bertolt Brecht Summer Theater Workshop at UCLA.  In 1967, living in London, I sought enrollment in the Actors’ Workshop, spending a year studying the “Stanislavski Method.”  (“The Natural Law of Acting”, claimed Stanislavski.  When he died, he probably got bopped on the back of head by Newton.  “Gravity!  That’s a Natural Law!”)      

You will agree, I believe, that you do not make a concerted effort to become something you do not sincerely wish to become.  Evidenced by my actions, it appeared that, though I mentioned it to no one – including my conscious self – I sincerely wanted to become an actor.

Also, you do not continue pursuing some objective if you do not somehow believe you’d be good at it.  (Exception:  I have been taking piano lessons for almost eight years and my advancement remains discouraging.  I do not get that, but I am aware it is an exception.  Normally, you do not put heart and soul into something you are discernibly terrible at.  And do not ask me to play “Heart and Soul.”)

It’s understandable.  If you are a near-the-end-of-the-spectrum “Look at me” kind of a person, you make a beeline for the vocational “Mecca of ‘Look At Me’”, which would unquestionably be acting.  (The same way a passionate interest in money would send you inexorably to Wall Street.  You can make a killing in “waste management”, but the Wall Street route is more direct, bypassing the intermediate element of “refuse.”) 

The problem was that at that point at least, I did not think seriously about what being an actor specifically involved.  That being:

Exposing uncomfortable emotions in public.

Committing to a profession where the success level is miniscule.

And, perhaps most importantly, upon deeper examination, I have an inadequate ability of believing in “make believe.” 

I imagine being onstage playing “Walter”, engaged in a romantic entanglement with Laura, who is “Jessica” in the play.  In reality, I am married to Myra, and Laura is a lesbian whose companion is Louise. 

“Jessica” uses my “onstage name” and I reflexively look around for the “Walter” she is talking to.  I am embracing “Jessica” but I am thinking about Louise.  

I am less than confident I could successfully pull that “make believe” off. 

Is what I’m saying.

Though, as an actor, I would have to.  When you come down to it, persuasive “make believe” is what acting is all about.  A self-delusion I find generically ridiculous. 

If you believe “what acting is all about” to be generically ridiculous…

What the heck was I thinking?

Okay.  So there’s this problem/slash/dilemma.  You have a powerful impulse for “Look at me”, but you do not want to expose your most uncomfortable emotions in public, enter a brutally competitive profession, and you find it ridiculous to stand up there pretending you are somebody else.  What do you do then?

You know what?

I may have blundered into the most accurate definition of a writer.
Happy Passover (and Easter) to everyone.  Cherish the freedom.  And pass it along.

1 comment:

Joe Flynn said...

Happy Passover, Happy Easter.