Warning: This blog is going to seem a little all over the place, but that is because it is coming from a real place. My heart does not express itself linearly. It skips around, trying to find where my mind is. For those of you who are confused after reading this, I apologize in advance.
The Laramie Project has challenged my acting in so many ways – the complex blocking, the active stillness, and the multiple characters – especially the multiple characters. Did I mention the multiple characters? It seems everyone else have gotten a grasp on exhibiting distinct personalities for each character. Some have even managed to get the Laramie twang down. While it should be encouraging for me, I can’t help but feel intimidated and unsettled. But like a freshman running from a dorm to the bus stop to grab a passing C-1, I feel left behind. My “southerness” is so much of who I am, and it is hard to get rid of it. It is not intentionally like that, but when people continuously call me out for my regionalism, I can’t help but be hyper aware. And for a perfectionist/control freak like me, being hyper aware becomes addictive and unavoidable. It turns into self-afflicted pressure. I feed off of it as much as it feeds off of me. However, when it feeds off of me, it takes much bigger chunks. Where I nibble, it devours. Where I chew, it gnaws.
In terms of The Laramie Project, I feel if I don’t master overcoming my natural accent, I do a disservice to all the characters that Jeff has bestowed upon me. However, in terms of life, I will feel like that I will be unable to call myself an actress. Or at least I will fall into the “one-note” category. I don’t want to be that kind of an actress. I want to be chameleonic in the most artistic way possible. I keep telling myself that I am not a one-trick pony, but come April, we will indeed see if I am.
One of the things about my performance that has plagued me from Area Boy is how I did not adopt a Nigerian accent. As good as my performance may have been, I still feel like it wasn’t enough. So not only am I carrying the insecurity of now, but also the diffidence of last semester. It’s frustrating for me because I enjoy The Laramie Project so much (especially in comparison to Area Boy). I want to make the audience feel the same way I felt when I read this for the first time back in September. When I was notified that I had landed a spot in both projects, I felt that I would struggle more in Area Boy than in Laramie. However, now that Area Boy is over and I am in the middle of Laramie, I am noticing that the element of playing multiple characters in short bits of time is not allowing me to deliver the way I would desire.
I don’t want to be good. I want to be great. Every time I grace a stage, I want to be better than the previous time. If I am not giving 100% every single time, then I will feel like I am damaging the text of the Laramie Project and to my cast mates who are working their asses off right now. I know everyone is going to give a remarkable performance in April, and I just want to rise to the occasion that the entire Laramie cast has set. I have never had to juggle so many characters in one piece, and it is getting to me. As we go through the blocking, I feel like that I am no longer an actress anymore. I am simply a factory of characters, spitting out the same product only to just move through the plot. I can’t get into my groove.
For someone who has only recently kinda-sorta-yet-wholeheartedly-but-not-really embraced my talent as an actress, sometimes I feel like I cannot/will not measure up – that this task is too big for what I am capable right now. I don’t want to be the weak link of the group. I don’t want to be the actress who gives the same damn performance each and every time for each and every character. I hate those actresses. They are one-trick ponies. They are boring and predictable. If those adjectives don’t describe me as a person, then why do I feel like they could potentially describe me as an actress? Damn you Laramie for making me think introspectively about my life!
Now I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve heard it before.
(This is not to sound cocky)
Afftene, get over yourself. You’re great! You’re fantastic.
Jeff loves you. Everyone loves you.
Don’t worry about it.
But the compliments of others cannot drown out the insecurities in my mind. My mind always wins. Always. And that bothers me, and it scares me.
Moment: Play The Function
My favorite performance from last night’s Angels in America (which I was not enthralled by, BTW, but that’s another blog) was from Julie Fishell. The way she embodied each character so easily was magnificent. I did not even realize it was the same performer until it was pointed out in the talkback during lunch. I watched her more closely in Perestroika and was honestly mesmerized. Since then, I’ve been thinking how I can incorporate the same levels of dynamics into my own performance.
During the talkback, she mentioned that the way she was able to do it was to just “play the function” of the character in that moment. Those three words have reverberated in my mind since they were spoken.
Play the function.
It seems easy, but like other affirming three-word-phrases like “just do it”, “believe in yourself”, “try something new”, and “I love you”, it’s really not all that easy.
It usually takes me about five minutes of playing a character onstage before I feel settled into that person. However, none of the scenes I am in last longer than three or four minutes maximum, hence, my problem.
So where does that leave me? I guess I’m going to have to quit whining, adopt a Wyoming accent, and find a quicker warm-up time. I’m gonna do all of what I know how to do: the best that I can in the moments that I do have and tell the voices in my head to shut up and shove it.
– Afftene Taylor
P.S.: If I seemed overdramatic at times, it can partly be blamed on the fact that I am listening to old-school slow R &B love songs right now, and it is making me feel really sentimental at the moment.