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Monday, August 25, 2014

Busting Old Ghosts That Haunt Me

This weekend I received a reminder that failure is only temporary if you let it be. Instead, it can be only a pause, maybe a setback, or a building block for a success. I focus on results and often get lost in the shame and disappointment I equate with failure.

I'm currently in rehearsals for a show/experience that will run in October. We're starting our second week of rehearsals, so we're in the exploratory and workshop stages for the moment. In rehearsal Saturday, I made a specific choice of character with the aim of challenging myself in one of the exercises/experiments. I made other choices regarding that character that went opposite of what I felt would have been the obvious or easy choice. I started to feel like I made a bad choice and performed horribly even though I stuck to my choice in an attempt to hash it out. I felt the exact opposite of success and felt myself begin to slide down into the trap of comparing myself to others.

Everyone else around me seemed to be doing better. They made better choices. Why the hell did I avoid the obvious choice? They were in the world and I was floundering — committed to my choice and trying to make it work, but I was floundering. In my character interactions, I was making it easy for everyone else. What even makes me think that I'm actually an actor? 

The change happened on Sunday while sweating in the Merchandise Mart at the Minnesota State Fair. I realized that adding one element could make my choice 100% valid without negating my other choices, if given another opportunity to run with it. That one element would have tied in with another choice I made in an earlier experiment with a different character. It makes more sense now and feels less like a complete failure, but a gut/subconscious step toward a bigger success, hinging on character and subtlety more than the obvious and subsequently easy.

Or rather, what I thought would be easy for me.

Despite being a clown and improviser, I often have difficulty trusting my gut. My brain — goofy as it may be — craves logic and reason in choices and situations, even in making a choice not based in reason at all. My heart cries out for certainties and is frequently left to cry it out in a corner instead.

From this vantage point, I can't tell for sure if it was my gut or my brain that led me, but at some point, they started working together without my knowing it. Now I'm starting to see how the choice that first felt right, then horribly wrong and reputation-ruining in the midst of my peers and cast mates, actually weaves together with what can make a more interesting choice. That choice might not seem to fit at first, but can start out as an itch in the back of the brain, then as a feeling, then finally as a reveal that can tie in with the context of everything else in one, important detail saved for the perfect time. Ultimately, it's the director's job to determine that and to decide if it's worthwhile to pursue, but at least I have something to bring to the table other than self-flagellation and social/performance anxiety.

Not all of the webs a spider weaves have to be tangible.