Another Nor’easter on the way in Massachusetts, with up to a foot of snow expected here by the end of Tuesday. As long as we retain power, I’m not concerned. I just wish it would come on a different weekday. Twice we’ve had heavy snowfall on a Tuesday, which means I can’t go to my acting class in the evening.
Yes, I have started taking acting lessons this winter. I had been thinking about this for at least a year. There is a conservatory associated with a local theater in our city, and they offer all kinds of lessons in the performing arts for children, teens, and adults. Why acting? My main motivation is a desire to be able to sink more deeply into the characters I create for my fiction. Acting lessons seem like a fruitful way to get there. But I also have long wondered what it would be like to act in a play as an adult.
The last time I was on stage was in the sixth grade. Our elementary school principal set a high standard for the annual spring festival. Performances included versions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. The dialogue of these operas was both spoken and sung, all in English, and plots simplified. Parts were reserved for the fifth and sixth graders, and my older sister starred in both The Magic Flute and The Mikado. Costumes were designed for these two productions by our principal’s friends in the New York City theater world, and they were spectacular.
By the time I was in sixth grade, budget constraints had put the kibosh on those wonderful garments, and moms were assigned the role of seamstresses. The production that year was Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges. I landed the role of the evil Princess Clarice, who plots to kill the prince so she can succeed him on the throne. The one line that I recall singing was, “Poison, or a bullet!” My sister coached me in a dramatic delivery.
In high school, I was never able to get a part in any of the school plays. The drama kids were a tight clique, and I did not fit in. So I gave up.
I’m in no hurry to act on a stage, but I am gaining courage from the two classes we’ve had so far, to play “acting games” with and in front of my classmates. There are eight of us, four men and four women, plus our talented instructor. I’m the oldest, and the youngest is probably in his mid- to late-twenties. Two of the guys have acted in community theater and want to get training that they’ve never received. The rest of us are all newbies, pushing out of our comfort zones. Everyone is enthusiastic and has a great sense of humor.
The games vary from “Two Truths and Lie” to more complicated assignments. At our first class, for example, one person came to the center of the studio and sang a song, to be replaced by two other people who improvised a scene based on that song, to be replaced by another person who sang a song based on that scene, and so on, until we got back to the original song. It was hilarious.
We’ll continue with these games for a few more weeks, and then we’ll each learn a one-to-two-minute monologue of our own choosing, with coaching from our instructor. The class goes through the middle of May.
I have left both classes feeling totally energized, my brain swirling with ideas. I’ve also surprised myself that I have not felt too self-conscious or hesitant to put myself out there. This has been revelatory for someone who has long been more of an introvert. For many years, having scleroderma also caused me to be more sensitive about drawing attention. That, I am glad to report, has eased considerably, especially in the 12 years that I have been writing this blog.
As for an impact on my fiction writing, that will be a longer process. But in the meantime, classes are a hoot, a boost, and a reminder that you’re never too old to try something new—or something you wish you’d always done.
Image: Gwen King