SWITCH TO WATERPROOF MASCARA...AND OTHER LESSONS FROM ACTING SCHOOL

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”  Mary Oliver

I hate to keep writing about all of the crying I’m doing but it seems to be an integral part of this process of developing the body and soul of an actress.  At least I hope so.  Otherwise, I’m merely unravelling and that would be a shame.  

Once again, it took me by surprise.  Although it unfolded differently this time.  Not at all as I described in Breath.  Not so much in the moment of impact but over the course of the week.  

And it wasn’t about the kids.  It was the parents.

Here’s how it went.

Bruce, our acting teacher, was showing how he would do that crouch-walk thing (you know what I mean, right?) behind his toddler son as he was taking his wobbly steps.  When his son would stop and turn around in that “look at me go!” moment…Bruce would bolt up and become the proud daddy his son was looking for. This demonstration was at once funny and very sweet.  A parent so in love with a child growing up and away.

Then in an instant (and a little disconcertingly), the whole thing turned heartbreaking.  My hospital days came flooding back and Bruce was now every parent I knew there.  Doing what every parent wants to do. Keep their children safe. Keep them from falling.  Keep them.

But those parents were in a system that worked against them—-disrupting their sleep, upending every routine, coming into their private space en masse, talking to and around them using words they didn’t fully comprehend…or, at times, want to.  And then inflicting pain on their children.  

We pushed them off-balance as they crouch-walked.  As they desperately tried to prevent the fall. 

Their vulnerability.  Their strength.  They were heroic.  I may not have always recognized that then.

I didn’t cry in that moment in class.  Just as quickly as the feelings rose, I pushed them down.  But clearly, not away.  They made their first appearance three days later at the end of a yoga class.   In Savasana—the last pose of the class.  The final relaxation.  Queue the tears.  Quietly though.  And subtly.  Just an introduction to what was to come.

For part two, flash forward to Sunday’s Mask class.  After an intense exercise we hadn’t done before, when told to stand absolutely still….whoa.  Tears.  Not so subtly.  I’m not going to lie—I felt a little self-conscious.  I was actually creating a puddle.  But this time I gave in.  I allowed them.  

By now, you might think I mustn’t have dealt with these emotions at the time in my work.  I did, I swear.  There were tears aplenty.   There were also lots of laughs.  Children have the most incredible way of still needing to have fun, be silly,  and even mischievous…sometimes at the darkest times.   

(There’s a life lesson there.)

When I wasn’t at work, I played.  And traveled—probably my biggest escape hatch.  I knew how lucky I was and I lived as fully as I knew how.

The thing is, there’s no way you can fully internalize the sorrow of that work and keep doing it.  I see that more clearly now.  As “in touch” as I like to think I was, I put up walls.  To survive.  

Now, in the pursuit of my dreams, those walls have to come down.  And as they do I will be reminded of the privilege I had, for that relatively brief time, to be let into the lives of those families.  

And to do my own best crouch-walk behind them.