Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Acting Woes

Brief update, not on writing, because I'm mostly not doing that at the moment, but on the other side of my life: theatre.

I'm facing an odd problem in rehearsal. The scene is done with a spa concept. And everyone is talking about spa things and props and stuff you stick between your toes, face masks, pedicures, what people always do when they go to the spa. What spa days are like, what they look like and feel like. The process. The atmosphere. Things that are not my "normal."

Pedicures and manicures were a treat for me, for special occasions. I have had one pedicure and one manicure in my life, both before junior prom. In high school. Never a spa day. I've never been to a spa place. And as for the dinner party exercise we did, well...nope. Not much experience with those, either.

Now, I don't need to go all "method actor" and have a spa day just to be able to understand this scene. I pick things up, take cues, and besides, I've seen plenty of movies. It's just been a very illuminating experience. The thing that gets me is how everyone talks about it like it's totally typical. A commonplace feminine experience. My understanding of this experience is assumed. Yet I was never privileged to have this experience because spa days were expensive and impractical -- at least for people of our means. 

It just makes me aware of difference. It struck me at this time because of another comment in class, about how basically everyone has iPhones nowadays. Yes. Many people have iPhones. Many more people can't afford iPhones, though. That is not their normal. It is not my normal.

I mean, I'm in grad school. I have a certain amount of money. My family is not poor. Experiences like this, though, are just...illuminating. Interesting. But not necessarily in a good way. No one is deliberately excluding me or anything malicious, but...

Awareness of difference. That's what has been on my mind lately.


  1. It isn't exactly the same, I realize, but as I have been through my acting life, I've experienced something similar, but in regards to romantic or lust scenes. Not full on sex scenes, as I've never had to do one of those, but I've been instructed to just act "naturally" when characters I play have to fall in love with, or become attracted to women. "You know how it is, just use that." The problem is, very little of my responses and behaviors when I am "falling" for someone are of the "typical guy" model. As with you, I have observed same, and can study what one might do to invoke that appearance in a scene if it is required. But stage direction/notes such as, "typical guy response" aren't exactly insightful reference points for someone like me.

    Like you, I don't think anyone is making an effort to call me out for anything, but sometimes I think it would be a better set of directions to explain what blocking, voice, tone is expected in more specific terms than just to say, "you're a guy you know how this works" or something to that effect,

    1. Yeah, I've never understood the "just be yourself" direction. Or "act natural." It is theatre; it's art; it's an illusion. Naturalized or "realistic" acting is itself an illusion, so...I fail to see how that kind of direction is at all useful to a struggling actor. The worst piece of advice I've ever been given in an audition workshop was, "Do that again, but...can you do it as you? Don't use a character, just be yourself." Me: "...So, like how I would say it?" Them: "No, just be yourself." Me: "..."

      And, I mean, I understand if someone references a pop culture thing I don't immediately get. But for something that's related to a certain class/culture/monetary status to be assumed as the norm for everyone...It has been a bit unsettling to hear everyone else talk about these things with "insider" knowledge that I don't have.

  2. Just as people are always excited to talk about the latest cool thing they've learned, people who've experienced certain things make unconscious assumptions that others share that experience. Doing so helps find people of a similar experience, and, perhaps, a like mind. For instance, your Twitter says you're a nerdfighter. I had no idea what that meant when I first read it, but I'm sure if other nerdfighters read it, they'd know something about your interests and experience. It's a way to sort people, and maybe meet people. I have no hesitation in saying at such moments "I've never been to a spa. What's it like?" This lets people do their favorite thing in the world: tell you about themselves :) Then maybe they'll invite you next time they go. You won't have to go a 2nd time if you don't want, but as a writer, all new experiences are to be seized upon! Enjoy :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by! And, gosh, you just reminded me of my twitter. I haven't tweeted in ages... :/

      I guess maybe I'm feeling an odd bit of guilt for no reason other than that I can afford college yet haven't been to a spa. My parents also spent a good deal of time trying to present the front of being a lot better off than they actually were (at least this was my impression), so maybe there's something ingrained there about not letting the facade slip. But then again if you've ever had multiple experiences of just asking what it's all about to a group of girls (and it's usually girls) while trying to fit into the "in" group, and getting nothing but scoffs and disdainful looks, well, it makes you a bit jaded. I mean, I could have just asked, and I'm sure they wouldn't have minded, but I didn't feel the need to since there were movies that I could reference to get the experience secondhand. They talked about it in rehearsal, too, so I just quietly absorbed -- more my style. I'm a little more introverted. If I had continued to remain confused, I would have asked the director privately for more details.

      Where I'm getting stuck is that personally, I would never just assume that someone else knew what a spa day was like, because to me that experience means that you have the time and money to go get pampered, so it is a class/money marker. If you are used to having that privilege, then it's something that you just don't think about, though; you assume everyone "gets it." That to me is different than sharing another interest. I'm not upset or anything; it just made me go, "hmm." It's always interesting to catch a glimpse of others' worldviews and experiences.


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