Friday, August 9, 2013

If Age Is Just A Number, Can I Please Pick Another One?

            I’ve always felt that whatever age I’m at; it’s never the right one. When I was 25, I thought I was old. When I was 35, I thought I was… well, old. Now that I’m [gulp] 46, I feel ancient. Or do I? Physically, I feel great. Socially, I can still keep up with the twentysomethings (even though some nights, I’d rather just read a good book). Emotionally, I have the life experience of a “grown-up” with the youthful spirit of someone much younger. On paper, it seems like a great balance.

So what is this hang-up about age that has plagued me for most of my life? I feel like I’m continually in a race, playing catch-up to where I think everyone else is and where I think I’m supposed to be. But by doing that. I’m always looking forward (or backward) and missing out on where I am RIGHT NOW. Why can’t I appreciate that TODAY is the youngest I’ll ever be for the rest of my life? Am I stuck in my head?

“Get Outta Your Head” – it’s the slogan that adorns the Matthew Corozine Studio website. During my years studying acting with Matt, getting out of my head was one of the cornerstones of Matt’s teachings. “Get out of your way” was another one. Every moment in his class was about the here and now and being in the present moment. That’s what acting is. It’s also what getting “outta your head” means.

But let me tell you—it’s harder and scarier than it sounds. Being present means really listening to someone (instead of thinking about the laundry you need to do when you get home from class); it also means responding to someone in an honest, truthful way (as opposed to lying to them and telling them what you think they want to hear). Class trains you to trust your instincts and express yourself accordingly. Easier said than done. Out of the classroom, we are trained to be uber politically correct. As a result, our feelings and instincts can get buried so deep that we need to consult Google Maps to locate them. Or, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you can end up in Matt’s class and he can give you a map, personally devised for y-o-u! There will be some interesting twists and turns, however, as your mind puts up roadblocks and refuses to follow the path laid out for you. But that’s okay, because it’s all a part of the amazing journey you’ve signed up for, and ultimately you will be led to where you’re supposed to be (whether your mind likes it or not). Kind of reminds me of my battle with my age… I’m getting older whether I like it or not. Why not enjoy the journey and let it take me to where I’m supposed to be?

In class, where you’re supposed to be is the land where instincts and feelings roam free. And in this land… anything goes. You might go from yelling to crying to laughing in a matter of seconds. You say things you wish you could say in “real life” but can’t. (Remember the politically correct thing?) Class is a playground, and just like children, we are learning to explore each other and the world around us. But you can find yourself in unfamiliar territory at times, and feel like a kid who’s afraid of the dark. I remember the first time a student told me “I care about you” or “You touched my heart,” during a repetition exercise. I wanted to vomit. This person didn’t even know me… how could they care about me? How could I touch their heart? It wasn’t logical… it made no sense. But as I’ve learned, that was my “head” talking—the same head that tells me I’m ancient.

Acting is not a replacement for therapy, but it certainly can be therapeutic. It taught me how to go off of what I was hearing instead of what someone was saying. It taught me about trusting how I feel instead of what I think. The head can lie to us, but our guts always know the truth. The more you can listen to your gut, the more you are grounded in what is going on right now. And when it comes down to it, right now is all there really is, because yesterday is over and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

So perhaps class is where I can find some answers to my age obsession. Could it be time to revisit the Matthew Corozine Studio? Perhaps there I can reconnect to the present moment and learn how to appreciate the journey that’s going on right now. After all, right now is exactly where I need to be. The destination is obviously going to take care of itself…

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Two and a Half Years In Labor… Where’s the Baby?

            It’s stressful, emotional AND painful… there are times you want to give up. But people cheer you on saying, “You can do it!” or “Keep pushing!” or “You’re almost there!” As much as I appreciate the support, sometimes I just want to politely tell them to piss off. The frustration, the agony, the torture… is it worth it? I have no idea. I’m still waiting for my baby to appear, and by baby, I mean my play.

            It’s been two and a half years since I went into labor with “Elephants and Other Worldly Dilemmas.” Back then, it was a one-act called “The Day Martha Chose to Ignore God,” inspired, in part, by my real-life friend Martha.

            Perhaps it’s not completely accurate to say there’s no baby at all. My play is more like a set of twins. The first part of the delivery went so smoothly. Act 1 (Twin #1) popped out in under two months, and I’ve been nurturing it ever since to make sure it continues to grow and develop.

            But after delivering Act 1, I discovered there was yet another baby still to emerge—Act 2 a.k.a. Twin #2. Together, my set of twins join forces to become the full-length play “Elephants and Other Worldly Dilemmas.” There’s only one problem. Act 2 is simply refusing to make an appearance. When I think of what I’ve been through with my second delivery, I’m reminded of mothers contending with bratty children who throw temper tantrums in the middle of shopping malls. Act 2 requires more nourishment, more care, more growing time… but TWO YEARS’ worth? I guess Twin #2 is going through it’s own version of the terrible twos.

            With four major revisions of Act 2 under my belt, I began researching gestation periods of animals to see if I am not alone in this long and arduous birthing process. To my relief, I found gestation periods ranging from 2 years for elephants, 2-3 years for black alpine salamanders, and 3.5 years for frilled sharks. Phew. I’m not as bad as I thought, although I’m not sure my sanity can hold for 3.5 years.

            Writing truly does feel like giving birth. And what comes out feels every bit like a precious child you desperately love, and at times, secretly loathe as you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you decided to create this little monster!  And of course everyone has advice on how to parent your unborn child. I’ve done countless readings where I survey my fellow writers/actors/artists for feedback as to what I’m doing “wrong,” and each time I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. You know that feeling? It used to happen to me in school. A teacher would be explaining a new concept and it was almost like he or she was speaking gibberish. Sometimes all I could hear was static, like a radio station you can’t tune in. My heart would start pounding, as I frantically looked around me to see if my fellow students seemed as dazed as I was. Nope. Everyone appeared calm and collected. I was an A student—why did it sound like my teacher was speaking a foreign language??? It was only after class I would discover that everyone else was equally dumbfounded. They just had better poker faces than I did.

Well that’s how the process of feedback works too. At first, I’m furiously taking notes even though I have no idea what the words I’m writing mean. Everyone is firing thoughts at me—sometimes simultaneously—and it’s like I’m being hit with bullets. But you just have to take the hits, and trust in time a light bulb will go off and understanding will come.

And such is the case with my latest unborn child, the aforementioned Act 2. The feedback, which is so overwhelming at first, slowly sinks in and gives deeper meaning as to what my piece is about. Now, as I prepare to embark on revision #5, I’m scared but excited at the same time. Each revision brings me closer and closer to seeing this baby finally come to life. I look forward to metaphorically slapping it on its bottom and welcoming it to the world! And to all of you who have helped me along the way—John Olson, Joanie Schlafer, Sue Cerreta, Audrey Attardo, Audrey Sawaya, Drew Dickhart, Melvin Huffnagle, Danny Dragone, Mike Gregorek, Erinn Moran, Martha Arnold, Monica Hanofee… the list goes on—I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have all taught me the importance of being honest and open minded with my work. Someone once told me that art is “creative sharing” and I have to agree. I believe what we create together is better and more profound than what we can do on our own.

            And now it’s time to give birth to this blog entry. This one was a pretty painful delivery too, but well worth the effort!