Hello my lovelies, well my show has opened. In fact we’re almost halfway through the short run already. It was a total whirlwind learning this large role in a week and was a good test for me to see if I could actually do it. I’m glad to say that I succeeded in learning everything and I think I acquainted myself fairly well on opening night.
Up until now I have had the adrenalin to keep me focused. I was so sharply concentrating to remember what came next that there were no gaps for the insecurities to creep through.
Now that I am more comfortable there is space in my thought for doubt to appear.
Are you familiar with those thoughts? The ones like:
- why didn’t the audience laugh at that?
- do I look like an idiot?
- can I trust that the director has shaped this properly?
- am I really any good?
Then out come the reviews and all but two of them don’t even mention me. I am lumped in with ‘the excellent cast’ or some such thing but no confirmation that what I’m doing is good.
I suppose the flip side is that none of them say I’m awful, so there must be some solace in that, but wouldn’t we all like a pat on the head and told we’re good? Especially when you put so much of yourself out there every night for scrutiny.
But is there anything worse than a needy actor?
So even though I am as needy as the next, I put on my brave face and act as if I don’t care, when deep down inside I am racked with guilt and fear that maybe, just maybe….. I’m crap. Maybe I’m really no good in this part. It’s that doubt that starts to eat away at you.
So what can you do?
Have faith. Trust. Breathe.
Know that you wouldn’t be where you are unless you were good. There are enough actors around that they would have got someone else if you really were awful. I remind myself I’ve been a working actor for 20 years – if I was truly awful I would have stopped working long ago.
Also, I try to remind myself that there can only be one star in a show and this time it’s not me. There is a need for supporting characters, there is a need for foils. In this case, my character has some rather unlikable traits which give the lead character the opportunity for her own growth path. So if I do my job well, I am actually unlikable to the audience! So maybe the fact that the reviewers don’t like me enough to single me out means I am actually playing the role exactly as it should be played?
Or maybe I’m crap!?
Or maybe I should just stop worrying about all that and focus on what I can do – showing up every night and doing the best I can.
Being in the moment.
Supporting my fellow actors.
Doing my best to tell the story.
The rest is just distractions.
Julia Cameron, in her amazing book The Artists’ Way, talks about making a pact with God or a higher spirit that ‘I’ll take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.’ I need to remind myself of this over and over again. I can show up to the theatre, put on my makeup and execute the role to the best of my current abilities. It’s up to God whether I am any good. I have no control over that. And by keeping the quantity of the work I do up, I am bound to get better.
This is the third show I have done this year and I definitely feel I have grown as an actor from working so much. The more you work, the better you become. You are closer to putting in those 10,000 hours which are required to reach mastery of anything.
So as one of my actor colleagues rightly pointed out ‘stop reading the f*cking reviews! what do they know?’
And as someone who does reviews for a magazine I am acutely aware that reviews are just one person’s opinion and that your enjoyment of the theatre can be so influenced by your mood, the day you’ve had or how tired you are. It’s all totally subjective.
Caring about reviews, caring out how good you are, are ways that perfectionism creeps up and bites you in the ass. Perfectionism wants to stop us from creating. It wants to limit our exposure to danger by making sure we only do things that are safe. We can’t be harmed if we always stay within the comfort zone. And perfectionism is about the comfort zone.
So blast through it. Dare to be awful! that’s actually a liberating thought. Dare to be awful! But get out there and shine!
I’ve got a show to do!
How are you doing to blast through your own comfort zone? how are you going to shine?