March 2, 2010

Being an Actor is Different Than Being a Director

I guess that above statement is pretty self-explanatory.

And yet... it's so easy to get them mixed up.

Currently, I'm in rehearsals for a show* in which I am not only an actor, but playing many different roles. And there's something liberating, and horrifying, about this. On the freedom end, acting allows me to stop thinking about the larger picture and to concentrate on what I need to do right now. I need to learn my lines, true. And I need to learn my blocking, also true. But there are physical and vocal choices to be made, I must remember who needs the focus on stage, and how to never ever upstage a scene partner while always making myself shine. It feels wonderfully freeing to just be in the moment in the story and not think about all the other scenes that are coming. As a director, I sometimes pull out my hair with those worries.

But on the horrifying front, acting can make you feel small. Sometimes I wonder if anyone really cares if I'm physically invested in a scene, or really what's the big deal if I choose this vocal register over that one. And do you, the audience, even notice that I've worked my butt off to get this hip roll just so or that intake of breath so perfect? Nope, in the end it all feels so... empty.

But then every once in a while you catch someone looking at you when you thought no one else was, and you realize that all that hard work has actually captivated someone. That for a split second a real person was drawn in by your character, and your character is just really you.

Being an actor reminds me that nothing is easy, and being a lazy bum will never help my characters spring to life. But it's different than being a director, because it's all about me . Which sometimes can feel pretty nice.

*Remember last semester when I was the Assistant Director for Gallatin's The Trial? Well, the play is going to Prague for spring break, and one of the actors was unable to go, and so I am the understudy! That's right, I'm off to Prague in two weeks.