Friday, January 7, 2011

I Came To Play

I have never shied away from the side of show business that is competitive and cut throat. I have little compassion for people who go into this field expecting things to turn out the way they wanted and then turn bitter when the opposite happens. I grew up obsessed with sports, with winning, with the very act of competition. It is invigorating to me.

Of course, I am not immune to that kind of bitterness. It is something that ate away at the fabric of my life for a long time. The external reality of my career did not match my sense of my own talent. This juxtaposition, like a fractured bone, caused me to become off-kilter, out of balance, and less capable of action when necessary.

A few things allowed me to heal (or, I should say, continue to heal because some injuries are permanent and cannot ever be allowed to fester). First and foremost, the love of Melody and my family was like a constant salt water wash, attacking that infected area. Without those people I wouldn't care if I were successful or not. With them I can bear anything.

But right behind those people, in a close second, comes The Workshop With Jeffrey Tambor. I came to this class just as these things that plagued me were coming to a head. My father was on his way out of this world, I was angrier than I'd ever been which is saying a lot, and I was not in control of my own creative destiny.

Tambor changed all that with one pointed finger.

I brought a Shakespeare monologue in for my first time going up onstage. I did a capable job with Edmund from King Lear. Mr. Tambor then asked me a few pointed questions. He then got up on stage and asked me to do the monologue again.

As I did so, he literally poked me in the back, pushing me forward. I had to keep moving to adjust. It also immediately tapped into the well of anger that I was being crushed by but somehow pretending to ignore. Within a few seconds I was snarling the gnarled phrases and spitting them out as if they were bones inside a still-living carcass that I was devouring.

After prodding me on to this explosion, he looked out at the class and asked them what the difference was in the two performances. Uniformly what people noticed was that one was cerebral and well-executed but the second was unpredictable and impassioned. In short, MORE DRAMATIC.

This transformation was not the arrival for me, maybe there isn't an actual arrival, it was merely the jumping off point. I still had many months ahead of me where I refused to address my own attitudes. I was still exhibiting many of the same behaviors that were keeping me (Mr. Tambor's phrase, as in 'What's Keeping You?') trapped in the same old spot.

At this point I am not even concerned with how this affects any career I wish to have. What started that day for me was a slow dawning realization that I wasn't enjoying my life and it was my own damn fault. I don't know from God but even any theoretical divinity would insist upon some sense of gratitude and joy being at the center of your life.

So now that I've dispensed with my bullshit, now that I've agreed to keep shoveling it out of my way every single time I catch myself letting it pile up, now that I've embraced myself...

I came to play (a phrase I borrowed from my buddy Ben Barnes, another member of The Workshop). Thanks, Mr. Tambor. I owe you one.

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