Struggling to get cast, I decided to try an acting class several months ago, thinking I could perhaps hone and refine, get some feedback and guidance. I met with the head instructor for my interview, was accepted, and was eager. I'd been told that the class used action to bring out character, etc., which appealed to me because I'm not a fan of the School of Emotional Regurgitation. (When I was in therapy in my 20s, my therapist brought up the subject of group therapy, and I responded that I really didn't have the patience for other people's demons or emotions, just as I'm sure my demons were not all that interesting to anyone but me. He didn't push it, as he wasn't all that sure I needed it - I was working pretty hard on my own.)
So first day of class. Four boys, two girls, one woman. Yep, everyone but me was in their 20s. And guess what? Everything was based on emotions an impulses. Act on your impulses. Well, you have a 20-something boy on stage with a 20-something girl, and guess what the impulses are. Yep, lots of kissing, Of course, those impulses did not translate in my scenes, because I was not fuckable to them, nor were they to me. And we all know that most boys feel one of two things toward women: lust or contempt Yeah; it was fun. I'd paid $300 to be an outcast again, only I didn't have the safety of the Latin Club this time around.
In one scene , one of the guys tried to get me to "open up" by taking off his shirt. In the scene analysis afterward, the instructor (there were four) suggested that had I followed my impulses I might have rubbed my hands over the boy's chest.
If I'd followed my impulses, I'd have walked off stage and the incredible feeling of discomfort at the prospect of any kind of sexual encounter with someone I could have given birth to.
In on wordless scene, I was told that I'd come across as "angry" when I looked through some CDs. "Angry about what?" I'd asked, mystified. "I was looking for a CD."
Of course, instead of pointing out that when I get focused I look angry, which might have helped me with my technique, they insisted I was in denial of my true feelings.
True feelings of rage, apparently that sorting through CDs engenders in most people.
I stuck with the class, feeling old, isolated, and more and more, as Morales says in A Chorus Line "that this bullshit was absurd."
Finally, in one class one of the guys decided to take it upon himself to show me how truly angry I was, help me uncover the anger that I was in such denial of, and began insulting me and calling me names, ridiculing me. I should mention that in another scene in the previous week, another guys had told him that I disgusted him. So basically, here I was, a true grown up, being emotionally assaulted by a bunch of kids who think that by being cruel they are somehow experiencing artistic growth.
I ended up in the bathroom in tears, and walked out of the class. I did not return. I did not go through a childhood and adolescence of crippling shyness and self-consciousness, serious depression, and therapy to have these people tell me how I feel. I have faced riot police, gangs, muggers, bad dates, and a verbally abusive alcoholic father; trust me, I know what it feels like to be afraid and angry. Anger is not something I'm going to vomit up like some parlor trick to satisfy some kid with half my life experience who's decided I need to dance to his tune.
And I fail to see how it will make me a better actress. From what I can see, the main things standing in my way are my age and my hair, because nonprofessional theater in Chicago seems more and more like some post-college party for mediocre twentysomethings who think a woman has to be under 35 and have hair to her ass to be feminine. This is the Midwest, were inspiration goes to die.
I've begun discussions with a woman I know form my last show who's near my age and feeling the same way. We're talking about just putting on our own show. If you can't get cast, cast your own damn self.