Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ten Year Plan: Half-way Point

In an Acting I course I hesitantly took back in 2002, Bruce Burkhartsmeier said that it takes ten years to be comfortable on stage.  That sounded right to me.  So, when I got my first paying gig at the end of April, 2004, playing Baylen in Cygnet Theatre Company's production of Glengarry Glen Ross, directed by Don Alder, I started counting down.  When I receive my MFA seven weeks from now, I will have been acting five years, which is half-way through my plan to stick with theater at least ten years before deciding to quit, if it turns out I suck at it.

Considering the more-than-average amount of baggage I brought with me into acting--such as  stage fright, social anxiety, ossified personal habits--I'm okay with my progress thus far.  I've already come further than I expected possible.  Of course, my expectations keep going up--so satisfaction remains constantly out of reach--but, at very least, I am much closer to the man--if not the actor--I want to be, because I've made a consequential decision about my life and, hell or high water, have stuck with it.  That's the way it's done, of course, but I came late to that understanding.

I miss my writing ambitions, but my problem was that writing kept me locked up inside my head in unhealthy ways.  I'm a physical guy.  I need to be in my body.   And despite my various incompetencies--e.g., I can't really dance, I'm awkward (if passable) in stage combat--theater keeps me there.  As a close friend of mine says, "there's a lot to be said for embodiment."

I haven't had the natural--that is, untutored--talent to proceed any faster 'up the ladder' than I am.  I'm skipping no rungs (unlike talented colleagues who I predict will bolt fairly quickly upward).  My progress is apprentice and journeyman like.  Despite my many pessimistic moments that's fine with me. This slow progress is keeping me grounded.  I probably should not enjoy 'success' at any faster rate than I would want to enjoy losing weight and getting physically fit (which I also did during this time.  Five years ago, I was 60 pounds heavier and much unhealthier than I am now.)  Losing weight too quickly leads to panic as one's self-identity changes too rapidly and leads to backsliding.  I believe it's the same with other changes one decides to make to one's soul (and, yes, losing weight is a shift in one's soul.)  Slow and steady works for me.

I'm more excited about the next five years than I've ever been about any previous period of my life. 


Angela said...

I'm happy for you. :)

JanP said...

Yes, there IS a lot to be said for embodiment. That's going to be my motto du jour. At least for today. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Keep up the continued good work. You'll get there.
Congrats on Malvolio, by the by.

Signore Direttore said...

Having known you for much of the past five years, I would not call your progress slow. I'd say thorough in a way that a younger actor might not require or want such diligence as you've committed yourself to. You haven't taken to acting like a fish to water, that's true, but you have admirably pursued your goal in spite of all your difficulties with it. That's incredibly commendable.
And though you have not been rocketed to greatness in the past five years, your improvements are profound.
Relax and let the next five years come one audition, rehearsal and performance at a time. You're an actor and nobody can take that from you. Not even yourself.


Tasi Alabastro said...

Fantastic Sir.