I wrote a few weeks ago about my early appreciation of the acting classes I started taking at my local Independent Shakespeare company. At the outset, I loved the classes as a change of pace that opened my mind to new approaches to my writing, and the classes even helped me sort out the spirit and heart of my next novel I started writing earlier this month.
What I didn’t expect was to be taken back to college. I graduated about ten years ago, and three years before that I stopped acting. I’ve talked about my issues with anxiety here plenty before, so it should come as no surprise that when I had an excuse- or rather gave myself one- I stepped away from theater and focused my energies on the safer, less stressful work of writing.
Even writing for the school paper and lit magazine came with its own stress- putting my name on something in ink brought on more than its fair share of debacles that caused breakdowns and panic attacks. They were more bearable, I told myself, than the hyperventilation, heart pounding terror of going on stage.
What I’d forgotten though was the payoff. I got a taste of it the first week in class, when my teacher listened to me perform a speech from Lear and simply remarked, “Fucking brilliant!” to the class. I’ve gotten the taste of it every week when I get up to rehearse my scene from Macbeth and see the rapt attention and even gasps as I wend my way through my monologue.
I missed the result. I let the challenge of stepping onto the stage overshadow it, but damn did I love being under those lights with eyes on me as I took on a role and tried to convey conflict, pain, and struggle. Damned if I don’t realize how much better at I am at taking a deep breath and focusing the nerves at putting in the work to be prepared and nail it.
I’m not having some late revelation that I was “meant for the stage” as The Decemberists sang (great song, by the way,) but I remember my love for it again- and have learned that I’ve gotten to a point where my love of it, and my maturity and diligence far overshadows the hurdle of my anxiety. I’m eager to keep taking classes and enjoying them as a continued outlet for my energy and creativity.
My favorite teacher in high school once told me: grow, don’t change. Today, in this regard I feel good that I could tell him I accomplished that. We all confront our demons at different paces and in different ways, and we realize our progress in different ways also, but keep going. As I’ve said dozens of times already, we move forward.