Who Am I? Growing Personally to Become a Better Actor
Are you one of those people who freeze up in a stressful situation? I’m talking about the kind of situation where you find yourself paralyzed and unable to move. Well, it happens to me, and I never know when to expect it.
The first time it happened, I was four years old. I was outside with my brothers on a playset we used to have in our backyard when a strange noise suddenly filled the air. It was so loud that my mother rushed outside to see what it was. Looking up, she saw a dark, whirling cloud quickly descending. Yep, you guessed it, it was a massive swarm of bees looking to make our playset its next home. My mom shouted above the hum for us to run into the house. Everyone dashed inside, except for me. I sat wide-eyed and frozen, perched atop the slide unable to move. No amount of coaxing could bring me down as bees by the hundreds began to swarm around me. Thankfully, my mother managed to climb up the slide and pry my fingers loose from a bar I locked onto, then slid me down and carried me inside.
Ever since that day, whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I end up with that same type of sensory over-load experience. I freeze up like a popsicle, unable to move. I don’t know why it happens, but I am definitely one of those people who can be caught like a deer in the headlights. It can even happen when I’m not in a dangerous situation, and is truly frustrating!
But what does all this have to do with being a prepared performer? Well for one thing, it is important as actors to know ourselves. Making time to work through our thoughts and understanding what makes us tick is important to the study of acting. For me, knowing why I freeze up is important. Through my discovery process, I’ve realized that I forget to take time for myself when life gets busy. I let obligations, demands, activities, and frustrations swap a sunshine-filled day for a day that feels stuck in the frozen tundra. I know I’m not alone in this, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to share this struggle with all of you.
Taking charge of the stress in my life has been important. I’ve started up a daily journal-time of reflection, and it’s allowing me a chance to daily center myself—it’s a place for me just to be me. Another thing that helps is talking things through with an older person who has insight on some of these issues. Reflecting and asking the tough questions might not change who I am, nor will it change difficult circumstances or the busyness of life, but it’s helping me discover more about me.
Like for instance, I’ve learned that I want to do it all, and have trouble saying, “no,” when I’m too busy. Sound familiar to any of you out there? And I’m guilty of choosing roles because I have friends participating in the show, instead of accepting a role that’s right for me with a theater where I would have to meet all new people. (Not only is this choice not a great career move, but it can ultimately cause more frustration.) I’ve also learned that being required to wear a costume on stage that is more revealing than I’m comfortable with heightens my anxiety and that I need to set personal boundary lines and stick to them. I could go on and on with what I’ve been learning, but I don’t think it’s needed.
When life is out of control, we are not at our best privately or professionally. Taking the time to know what makes us tick allows growth, and that growth makes us better actors. We read a lot about how to get into character as an actor, but knowing ourselves better helps us truly understand more of the “who” in the characters that we play and it also helps us make better decisions about the type of work that’s right for us.
-A teen who likes to shimmer and shine!