A few months ago, I returned to Shakespeare class. I had just performed a so-so first pass of my Adriana monologue. It is jammed pack with images and a real challenge. Not to mention, on this pass, I just didn’t feel completely “in it.”
My teacher started to give me notes. Many of which were centered on operatives (the most important words in the text). I was putting stress on non-operative words and missing some of my operative words, even though, I had drilled the f*** out of them. To say this really bothered me is an understatement. I knew that I had them down. Somehow the act of performing for others had turned me into some weird doppelgänger where all of the work I had done on my own had gone out the window.
The feedback was based entirely on what my teacher had seen … my operative work wasn’t solid. Deep within me, I knew this wasn’t the root cause. I wasn’t grounded and knew that no amount of drilling was going to “fix” my operatives. I needed to get grounded.
Stop People Pleasing
When similar things happened in the past, I bit my tongue and just let the teacher give me the note. I’d do the adjustment based on what he saw, while still struggling with my grounding. All the while, I’d feel more and more frustrated while not actually progressing in my work the way I knew I deserved and was capable of achieving. (A move straight out of People Pleaser 101.)
But this time, for maybe the first time in my life, I decided to open up about my experience and give myself the opportunity to test my own instincts and let my teacher help me with what I felt I needed most.
I politely and respectfully thanked him for the note and then proceeded to tell him that I felt I actually needed to work on my grounding. He was very receptive to what I was sharing and willing to change course.
The next thing he had me do was lie down on my back and do my monologue in that position. I instantly felt more ease, more emotional expression and fluidity. Also, it fixed 95% of my operative words without actually focusing on the operative words directly. When he brought me back to my feet and I performed it standing again, a huge part of what I discovered lying down came with me.
I was right!! If I hadn’t trusted my own instincts and been willing to be vulnerable rather than playing the role of “good student”, I never would have had this experience which was so powerful.
What I Learned
- If I am grounded, I am much more in flow as an actor. When I don’t feel grounded, I push and overwork. Big time!!
- I should always trust my own instincts as an actor. I have had a lot of training and therefore, I’m actually pretty expert about when a teacher or director’s note incorporates the external in a way that doesn’t actually serve my inner experience.
- It’s okay to speak up for what I feel that I want and need. Sometimes I won’t be right, but it is pretty important to follow my own instincts in order to find out.
There has been an exponential effect from my standing up for myself just this one time. First of all, my teacher discovered how to best help me with my work, so I got more out of his class and got better faster. I started to feel more confident about my work and my instincts, so I started to take bigger risks in my life and my art. I even asked a somewhat terrifying question during a casting director class last week!! (I’ll tell you about that in a future blog.)
Now it’s your turn …
Reflect on where you are being a people pleaser in your life, your art, or your career. Maybe there is a specific incident where you wish you had been more transparent about what you needed. Write about it. Now imagine you get to do it again. What would you say or do differently? Make a commitment to yourself to show up in this new way the next time you are in a similar situation. Tell me what your new commitment is in the comments below.
You got this!!