I am recovering from a brain haemorrhage and the discovery of a congenital AVM. You can read about it in my first post, Acting After Illness, which will lead you to where I am today.
As part of my recovery, I worked on short play by Peter Barnes called Acting Exercise for this years Camden Fringe.
Naturally, I wanted to perform to the best of my ability. I didn't want to think I could have done better. I didn't want the audience to feel they had been short changed. I wanted to connect and communicate with the audience. That after all, is what actors do - connect and communicate.
The play was directed by Jon Campbell. I have been going to Jon's workshops and intensive courses for a number of years now. Jon doesn't care much for the word "acting". Jon's about "being". It's a place where you are OK with yourself, just as you are, and it's from this place that connection and communication will come. The truth.
This place of being, called "just as you are" is a challenging and difficult place to find.
Brene Brown is a researcher and storyteller. She has spent a life time studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She asks, how do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough as we are?
After the first performance, Jon said I needed to go further emotionally to strengthen my connection with the audience.
Brown says in order for us to connect we have to allow ourselves to be seen and to feel worthy of connection. Was there something about me, that if other people knew or saw, I wouldn't be worthy of making the connection between actor and audience?
I realised hadn't shown up after all. I was hiding my truth. I was hiding behind myself. I was getting in my own way, playing it safe, hiding and protecting my vulnerability and it would be this, my vulnerability, that would bring truth to my performance and strengthen my connection with the audience.
I gave myself a talking to. Kind words.
It's OK to show up, just as you are, along with the blood vessel abnormality in my head, and with it, the journey of recovery from the bleed in my head. It's all OK. Just as it is.
An emotional truth, an authenticity, came to my second performance. I created a stronger connection between myself and audience which was faltering in the first. I communicated.
Brown says, what makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.
Cate Blanchett is a master of vulnerability, of showing up, just as she is. I can think of other actors too who show up, just as they are, Tom Selleck and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
It's hard, very hard, to stand there, on stage, in front of an audience or to have a camera and a film crew in your face. Your brain kicks in and the natural flight or fight response happens. For an actor, this natural response has to be tamed. I find that focusing on the breath takes care of this for me. It switches off the self-consciousness that thinks you are being watched and judged.
The breath, grounds me in the present moment which gives me a sense of myself, complete and whole, just as I am. Enough.
David can be reached via his agent Sam Bown at Brown and Mills. London,
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