Why do we do this? This thing called acting or singing or sharing our creative selves? I was part of two conversations this week that brought up this important question. First, in the brilliant company of Jodi Lynn Thomas, Jason Weiler and Jeananne Goossen. The second with Peter Eldridge for Art of the Song. There are basic, tried and true answers: “I love to tell stories”, “I have always enjoyed making people laugh”, and of course, hearing applause for the first time is a rush that few forget and many pursue again and again. All solid reasons to want a life on stage or screen.
Yet there was something else on the table in both exchanges. It came down to two things at the end of the day. Perfection and Responsibility.
Perfection. It’s an unattainable goal, and for actors it's even more pronounced. We are imperfect beings, portraying deeply flawed individuals in impossible circumstances. That’s what makes it so incredible. We have the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of another and perceive the world through their eyes. We feel things that we most likely will never feel in our personal life, and choose behaviors that we wouldn’t naturally choose. The closest thing to perfection that can be achieved is the simplicity of an unobstructed moment of truth, using our body, speech and mind to bring the character off the page and into action. We can stress about wardrobe, makeup, hair, and whether the other person in the room has a better take on the role, or has more connections than we do. Or, we can embrace the surrender of our personal behaviors and habits in exchange for another’s point of view. Perfectly, imperfect. That’s our craft. Because we are imperfect beings exploring another’s imperfect way of being in the world.
As for responsibility? What an opportunity. To voluntarily release my own traits, and in their place adopt those of someone who’s struggle and journey may mirror that of someone I have never met, in a town I have never been to, with a story that has never been told. That is a beautiful responsibility. Through our work as actors we ensure that other’s lives are made visible.
That’s why I love acting. It’s why I do it. I am an “Archeologist.” I am fascinated by the imperfect beings that we are, and I experience real joy combing through the treasure maps we call scripts, in search of the truth. I love exploring the choices of words, the whys and hows of a person, living to the best of their ability in their impossible circumstance.
Most of all? I love the feeling of stillness that comes in the middle of the chaos of performing, when all the imperfections find their balance and the truth of our collective humanity appears in all it’s glory. To me? Well, that is perfection.
I've shared a photo here by Tim Nenninger. Me, perfectly imperfect, sans makeup. Let's paraphrase Audrey Hepburn, and say "there is no such thing as imperfect. The word its self says I'm Perfect."