I attended my first acting class this evening in a squalid theatre on the east side. Sixteen of us, two of us were over the age of 35, Mary-Elizabeth and me.
As I sat listening to the instructor I was so frightened it almost took my breath away. I had an allergic reaction to the fear. My throat closing, my face flushed, my knuckles swollen.
I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want anyone to see how clumsy and inept I am.
Yet, after a few minutes, I began to feel comfortable and after 30 minutes I was totally at peace. The instructor encouraged us to make fools of ourselves and I relished the opportunity. The instructor told us that we would feel insulted, that we shouldn’t THINK. He told us to ‘go with the feelings’ he insisted that we didn’t manufacture jokes. That we learn to cut each other slack. The youngsters didn’t know how to do that-to look after each other. Mary-Elizabeth and I knew how to make space for the others because we came from a different time in space.
After the first 30 minutes I could no longer hear the internal critic-you know the one-the one who tells you you are a bad writer, bad person for trying. He looks at me knowingly, with my grand mothers eyes, wanting to know who the fuck I am to think I can TRY. Who told you that you could TRY? Could fight back? Could make art? Who told you?
The others were very cautious of me. I liked that I understood their caution. I understood them. They were so frail and sensitive. Not the two old farts. We weren’t frail or sensitive. We were just having fun. You could see that they were sniggering at me but I just didn’t care.
I was having a blast.
Some of them, the others, some of them sparkled, some of them were just lousy. I knew immediately that I was lousy. I knew I was bad but I didn’t care. I didn’t have any shame whatsoever this evening.
Tonight the class was about freeing my soul not tethering it to shame.
We poured out onto the cold street laughing and happy.