I am taking an acting class in the Margolis Method. It is delightful to be back in the saddle again, truly. However, it is also a re-entry into all the humility & hubris the performing arts and study of said can bring.
I have taken exactly two 3-hour sessions so far, and I am finding my own reactions and thoughts most amusing. (Well, amusing with a bit of chagrin thrown in for spice.) Ah, humans. We are a silly bunch, aren't we? Or is it just me?
I sometimes have the tiniest bit of a problem with self-criticism. (By which I mean to say that the Grand Canyon is an attractive, if shallow, ditch.)
So naturally I always pick someone in the room who is doing something particularly well (usually the teacher, who has been studying it for years) and open the doors to a giant festival of self-criticism and irritation with myself for not being as skilled as they are.
(If you're rolling your eyes, I'm sure I don't know why. It is completely reasonable to expect myself to perform at a master level after 4-1/2 hours of study. Sheesh.)
Some things never change: I remember very clearly my first huge artistic disappointment. It was in elementary school, when we modeled something in clay, which was then glazed and fired. I was going to make a dish for my mother, a swan dish, where the base would seamlessly rise up into a graceful neck, arching into the delicate head. I could see it. Very, very clearly. (Actually, I still can. It was a lovely swan dish, just lovely.)
Into the clay I dove, my hands itching to create what I saw. I will never forget the frustration when my young hands could simply not make the shapes I could see so clearly. Where was the grace? Where was the liquidity of line? WHERE WAS THE SWAN? My mother still has that dish, and if I'd thought of it, I'd have taken a photo to include, but I didn't, so you will have to imagine this:
A sickly shade of pink, with a bottom that looks a bit like an oval lumpy ashtray, because, you know, shape of swimming swan. There is a neck - anyone would agree that a neck exists - but rather than the slender arching we might anticipate, it looks more like a linebacker's neck. If that linebacker's neck was a square column instead of round. At the end perches - no, we can't call it perching, really - pokes a pointed lump, which clearly represents the graceful arch becoming the striking silhouette we all can agree is a lovely thing in an actual swan.
I have never liked that dish, as it always reminds me of what I meant it to be and how I fell short of my artistic vision. (Of course, my mother loved it. As mothers are supposed to do; I'm very lucky to have one that did.) I'm better than I used to be about not letting the thoughts in, but my 'better than' is a pretty low bar: these are tenacious tendencies, and acting and improv classes offer rich, varied, and frequent opportunities for self-criticism for those in the market.
And then I remember something a very wise improv teacher once told our class: Just because your self-criticisms, all those voices telling you what you did wrong, come to the party, doesn't mean you have to let them stay. You can thank them, and shoo them right out the door. "So lovely of you to care enough to show up, now I'd like you to leave. Chop-chop!" (Or in Margolis Method: "'I want you to go,' as I compress the spring.")
This was a mind-blowing concept to me - or at least phrased so succinctly and visually. So now I try to show Picky Polly the door when she invites herself in, but it's still a struggle. Begone, Polly - you are not welcome here!
Then, later in class, hubris got to show up to the party as well, which I think we can all agree is always fun. In our last exercise, we were to add improvised dialogue to our movements. Well. Inside, I felt a huge, huge relief. At last! Something I know how to do! Calloo, callay! This will be so much easier, thought I. And hey, I will be far more likely to do it well. Yay! "Not so fast," whispered the Cautious Cathy in my brain, but still I hoped, yes I did.
I think we can all see where this is going. I may be able to improvise dialogue, but just like most everywhere in life, speaking in a new language, moving in a new way, and absorbing a new philosophy is all rather a lot, so adding one thing you know a bit better, does not, in fact, always help. Nopers.
Sometimes it just then turns everything to gibberish, and you do none of the things well. Particularly post-Incident, where, as I have previously shared, my brain simply doesn't work as well, or as fast, and both thinking and moving are far, far more difficult.
So it's great to be back, celebrating humility, limitations, and hubristic tendencies. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet there are some lessons here I still haven't quite conquered. You s'pose? I'm-a-go work on that right now. Really, I am. (While still expecting be an expert by the end of my next three hours of class time, of course.)
We're all silly indeed. But surely not so silly as to think I'd end this post before including a photo of the actual artwork, even though I said I wouldn't? I think we all know the odds on that one. Here it is in all its glorious swan-ness:
And yes, Mom still loves it: