Annnnnd Action: Acting Class, Take One

unnamed-4

Here we go! First day of class

I was a little early and quickly scanned the room, quietly saying hi to the others who had already arrived before taking the last seat on the right side next to the the trash can. I wasn’t excited to be here, but I wasn’t dreading it either.

Content with staring at my phone, or the posters on the wall until the teacher arrived, I was quickly thrust out of my silence as my classmates looked at me and one by one started introducing themselves. I shook my head after each one spoke, acknowledging their initiative as if I was capable of remembering their names. I’m Aundrea, I said with a half hearted wave.

This is Introduction to Acting at the Walnut Street Theatre. Also known as a spur of the moment decision I made one afternoon more than a month earlier. The no refund policy meant there was no turning back.

The class started with typical ice breakers. We said our names while making a gesture that the class would mimic. We said what vegetable we would be. We got in groups to determine what we had in common. Before long we were walking haphazardly, jumping and freezing on command. I’m not one to play these types of games. I would quickly learn in this class the value is not in the perfection of the performance but in surrendering to the process.

A call from work initially raised a red flag. My schedule for the next day was going to change. Yes, it was to work the traditional shift instead of the twelve hours that was originally scheduled. But it removed me from special station coverage of an event that I was actually looking forward to. There was no explanation, just a notification veiled as a request to come in later the next day.

Days later, I was called in to review a live shot. I didn’t remember anything being wrong with it and I’m my biggest critic. It was a light hearted story about people enjoying a city sponsored block party. No big deal I thought. I was told that I lacked confidence. The feedback included concerns that I wasn’t fully immersed in the crowds. It was suggested that I be more gregarious and even order from one of the food trucks that surrounded me on live TV. I shook my head and let it sink in while thinking “have you met me?” Unbothered is my default. I’m very literal in my demonstrations. Jesus didn’t make me the life on anyone’s party. Why can’t smiling be enough? The live shot happened hours before I got the call changing my schedule. I put two and two together.

Convinced pretending, that really felt like shucking and jiving, was now part of my job description it was only logical to sign up for acting class. I was at least going to try to adapt, because this industry has plenty of examples of what happens to people who don’t.

For two hours on Monday nights, which is actually my Saturday, I was in class talking in funny voices, clapping, jumping, drawing pictures and creating impromptu scenes with classmates, among other things. We started as a group of sixteen from wildly different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and motivations. One of the first orders of business was to tell a story about ourselves. It started with our teacher Jasmine who set the tone for brutal honesty and vulnerability. The stories varied with many classmates sharing painful life experiences. I didn’t have the courage to go so deep with strangers. But each story was accepted and validated with the same type of reverence and support from the class. We were in this together.

Final Class Dinner

Final Class Dinner

 

After spending a career focused on other people’s stories, I really struggled with identifying one of my own. Actors as storytellers cannot create characters without first acknowledging who they are. It was one of many eye opening realizations.

We turned those stories into monologues. It was the foundation to learning the mechanics of presentation. Journalism school teaches you ethics, how to write, shoot and edit video. If you’re pursing a career on air they throw you in front of the camera with no explanation. At least that was my experience. The profession attracts those who like to be the center of attention, so they’re itching for the red light to come on. But for someone like me, initially it was an out of body experience. I thought I had learned to fake it fairly well, but I guess not.

After ten weeks the class ended with a performance of an actual monologue from a play. We entered the room as if we were at an audition and delivered the memorized lines. I spent all Monday going over the lines on the couch, while washing dishes, while doing my hair and while walking to class. When I stepped into the classroom it’s like I couldn’t even remember the first line. Thankfully everyone was nervous. I was the last one to perform. I went into the hallway, took a deep breath and looked at the script. I walked inside and did it! Something else took over.

Final Class Evaluation

Final Class Evaluation

 

I arrived at the Walnut Street Theater hoping to learn how to pretend. I left on Monday night, as I did every week, completely energized and feeling more like myself. Because unlike other spaces I’ve occupied, here all of your perceived deficiencies are embraced and valued. It didn’t create parameters determining what you could or couldn’t do. Instead it fortifies your foundation allowing you to better connect with audiences.

Let’s be clear, I don’t have my sights set on Broadway. But we’re all on a stage in some capacity. I can truly say there’s such joy in performing more authentically.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

4 Comments

  1. Mum
    November 30, 2016

    I admire your courage for taking this step which allowed you to see yourself from a differennt lens. So very proud of you girl.

  2. Vicki Yates
    November 30, 2016

    I love reading your words Aundrea!! And this entry was particularly insightful…you captured how local television news can often place more value on what someone (usually someone who’s never done your job) thinks you should be rather than who you are. Congrats for taking an uncomfortable step into expanding your boundaries!

  3. Tuwanda
    November 30, 2016

    I love reading your blog Aundrea! This one was especially touching for me as I was acted throughout high school and college. Becoming an actress was my Plan B had I not gotten into television. Acting skills can definitely be beneficial in our business, particularly when you’re doing the more lighthearted or entertainment stories. I’m so glad you’re going to be able to be your authentic self while drawing from your acting experiences. I think you’re a great reporter – and a great person!

  4. Jasmine
    December 6, 2016

    Lady! This is written so beautifully. You are such a wonderful person and I’m glad the class could help you!

Leave a Reply to Mum Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *