To Be or Not To Be

Last night, I went to my first ever acting class. It was the first time I had any experience whatsoever with acting. I had always wanted to do acting of some sort, but it just never worked with my schedule. In high school, practice for the drama was always immediately after school, but so was cross country and soccer practice. Being the sports fiend that I am, I naturally chose cross country and soccer instead. In college, I majored in athletic training which required many, many clinical hours. Combine that with needing a job to pay the rent and I had very little free time. The little free time that I had fell between 11PM and 6AM, and there wasn't a lot of acting going on then, especially not in Columbus, Ohio. Now, being in Boston, there are a lot more opportunities to get involved with acting. Naturally, I felt it would be best to start by taking a class instead of just jumping right in (what am I talking about "naturally"? I normally just jump right into things).

I am taking a beginning acting and improv class through Boston Casting Company. My teacher is Peter Berkrot, who happens to have been in Caddyshack. How cool is that? That is one of the cool things about acting is that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. You could potentially end up in a movie that is still big, even years later. Now, that's something to tell the grandkids. None of this walking up hill both ways backwards blah blah blah crap. He also told us a little bit about the class and acting in general. He told us that acting isn't so much "playing pretend", but playing reality or truth. It is just someone else's truth. A big part of acting is learning what truth and reality is to your character and making that truth your truth, no matter how difficult the truth may be (while still keeping in mind that you are still acting).

The class started with the traditional ice breaker. We had to pair up with someone in the class and get to know a little bit about them. After talking with our partner, we had to stand in front of the class and introduce our partner and tell the class three things about our partner. However, one person had to tell three lies about their partner, and the other person had to tell three facts about the first person. Then the class had to guess who was lying and who was telling the truth. It seems like a simple ice breaker, but when you think about it, there is even acting involved with this exercise as one person needed to lie about their partner while trying not to give away the fact they were lying.

Following the ice breaker, our teacher instructed us through some relaxation techniques and becoming aware of our body in space. Then he encouraged us to become aware of our surroundings. He told us to explore the room that we were having class in so we become comfortable in it. Then he gave us two scenarios so we could practice acting using just our actions. The first scenario that he presented to us was to pretend that we were aliens that were just put into this room. We had never seen this room before, nor had we even been to earth before. Now, we should explore the room under these conditions. At first, it was difficult trying to pretend that we didn't know what anything in the room was and trying to see it through the eyes of an alien. The longer we played out the scenario, the easier it was to play the part and the reality that would be an alien's in that situation. The second scenario was that we were throwing a party for our friend who is arriving in three minutes. Quickly prepare the room for the party. This was a lot less difficult to act out as preparing something urgently is already something we know how to do.

Following the two scenarios, we had to walk around the room and make eye contact with our classmates. Every once in a while, our teacher would tell us to pick out a partner and look them in the eyes for a minute. At first, it just seemed like we were staring at our partner and it was really awkward. Our teacher encouraged us to try to understand our partner and what they were thinking and feeling just by looking them in the eye. It is interesting to see how much acting is done through eye contact and communication. Also, the longer we made eye contact with someone, the more comfortable we became. Our teacher told us that a big part of acting is making eye contact. Eye contact, or lack thereof, tells a lot about the character.

To finish the class, we did an exercise called "Who's knocking?". We each had to think of a scenario that involved a person who is knocking on a door. We had to think of who was knocking, why they were knocking, and who is on the other side. After we figured that out, we had to leave the room and knock on the door as if we were in our imagined situation. Then the rest of the class would have to guess what our scenario was solely based on the way we knocked. It was interesting to see how acting is so much more than just memorizing words. Even little things like knocking can be acting.

Before leaving, our teacher talked to us one last time. He encouraged us to leave all judgments of ourselves at the door. He said our biggest critic are the little voices in the back of our head saying that we are doing something wrong, that we can't do it, that we will never make it as an actor, etc. He told us to leave all of those thoughts and feelings behind. It will make us much better actors because we will be completely focused on living someone else's truth and reality. Too much of our own reality will creep into the scenario if we are always worried about ourselves. This was reassuring as I definitely had a lot of these thoughts. I was especially worried that I would be the only one in the class with no acting experience and that everyone else would be former theater majors or high school drama geeks. I was happy to find out that only three people in my class had any acting experience, so I wasn't alone.

One thing I did realize is how hard it is to be anybody in acting. There are lots and lots of "unfamous" actors, as Benny so eloquently put it, and everyone is trying to be famous. At this point, I feel like fame would be a nice added benefit, but for now, I just want to have fun and learn. If acting is always a hobby or occasional side job for me, then so be it. But if I'm offered a role in Caddyshack, I'm not exactly going to say no.

I cannot wait for next week's class!

*Side Note: This all reminds me of a quote of myself that I said to Benny a while back: "Not many people know you yet. But I'm gonna make you famous, Benny."


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