Acting 101

NO, I didn’t want to be an actor! BUT, in the process of doing research on the solo performance form, it began to dawn on me that if I really wanted to know more, I was going to have to step up out of the researcher space as well as up out of the audience space and move my butt up on to the stage. But how could I possibly do that? I am not an actor. I am not a playwright. I am not a writer. I am not a director. And as my bank account makes very clear, I am certainly not a producer. What I am is a teacher and a really, really good audience member. But then an opportunity literally fell into my lap when I was checking out Tim Miller’s website this past September (I had been checking out the websites of various solo performers as part of my research) and saw that he was coming to NYC and that not only was he going to be performing at Dixon Place (I knew that I would attend at least one of his performances), but that he was also offering a workshop called the Body Maps Workshop. It was a six-day acting intensive workshop, taking place in mid-October, between 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. during the first five days, and between 2:00 and 6:00 on the last day. What I didn’t see until I was already registered and it was too late to do anything about, was that the workshop culminated in a public performance on a New York Stage. AAAAHHHH!

Ordinarily I wouldn’t even be able to think of participating in such a workshop simply because I don’t have so many free hours in any given six days in a row because I teach. But this was the semester I was on sabbatical. So, I had to think a bit more seriously about registering for the workshop.  I read the information more carefully and saw, a little to my horror, that it was open to all levels of acting experience. So, I then had to really, really think seriously about it since I couldn’t fall back on the “I have no acting experience therefore shouldn’t register” excuse. Plus, the price for the workshop was incredibly generous and since I have to fund all of my academic endeavors by myself that is a very important consideration. So, because the fee was so generous, I had to really, really, really think seriously about registering for the workshop. I thought about it overnight, tested the waters by broaching the subject with those close to me and when none of them fell over laughing or in horror, I thought what the heck so I registered. A few days later, I received an email from Tim Miller asking to find out a little more about my background and so I had to fess up that I was most definitely not an actor, but I was very much interested in the workshop. This is what I actually wrote:

Though somewhat nervous, I am also very much looking forward to participating in the workshop. I am a professor of English at a very small school and so juggle teaching writing, literature and drama.  I would say that four considerations inspired me to register for the workshop: 1) I was encouraged by the openness and generosity of the call (making it affordable, indicating that level of acting experience (phew) wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite, allowing so much time for the endeavor), 2) While I teach drama, my real connection to theater is as an audience member and just about everything I know about drama comes from being an audience member (I know about you, for example, because I saw your performance of US at P.S. 122 several years ago, 3) I am particularly interested in the solo performance form, have seen a number of solo shows at Dixon Place, and happen to be working on that form as part of my sabbatical this semester so the timing of your workshop is more than fortuitous, and 4) I want my students to realize that stories and writing and interacting with an audience MATTERS and so the more I can learn about how practitioners craft their art, the better. I find that learning usually comes from doing, so even though I don’t consider myself a performer or a writer, I will try very hard to be both during your workshop.

As fate would have it, Tim Miller was in the midst of a workshop first at Southern Methodist University and then at Northeastern so I didn’t hear back from him until nearly two weeks later which caused more than a few heart palpitations on my part. In time, however, I received an incredibly, enthusiastically positive email back from Tim warmly welcoming me into the workshop which is when the heart palpitations really started as I realized I was actually going to be participating in the acting workshop. Those heart palpitations worsened as we got closer to the workshop and Tim started emailing details about who was involved and I learned that of the nine folks participating, I was the only one who had never worked with Tim, I was the only one who had never had actor training, AND I was the only one who was not in their 20’s.  Double AAAHHH! It was at this point that I realized that I was out of my mind, but strangely didn’t care. Stay tuned to hear the particulars of what turned out to be a most awesome experience.

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