I think there’s an actor in all of us.
At some point in life, there has been a time where everyone has been polite to a relative they feel like strangling, or feigned interest over a child’s baseball game, or smiled at the doctor as if they weren’t facing a fire-breathing dragon. And though hopefully most of us are ashamed of it and are trying to drop the habit, we’ve all had to act well enough to pull off a lie.
But for me the pull to acting is more than the desire to know how to convincingly pretend I’m not a Pessimist. Acting is my soul food; my reason to keep going. And it’s not because I’ve had it my whole life. No, I didn’t get onstage until I was fifteen, and though that may still sound young, I wish I’d started younger. As previously stated, I am a pessimist, and with that comes, for me at least, a general dislike of most things. Before I tried acting, I had tried every other activity from ballet to horseback riding, and I was miserable in them all. And then I saw a church production of Fiddler on the Roof, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do. It took some time (funny how the world of make-believe is so competitive), but I finally did my first play, Much Ado about Nothing, and there have been few days since that I did not go to an audition, rehearsal, or performance. And the desire is growing. I’m not content with community theaters anymore. I’ve been looking around for acting schools, and auditions for commercials and extras in movies. Living two hours away from Hollywood helps that search, by the way.
But why? Why has this become such an addiction for me? I’m the last person who should be onstage. I’m an introvert as well as a pessimist, and I can’t stand being the center of attention or having people look at me. I hate high heels, makeup, doing my hair, and trying on clothes. Yet all those petty dislikes fall away as the curtain rises.
But I think it is my very pessimism and introversion that draw me towards this. When you are cast in a production of something, you are no longer yourself, but someone else. And everything difficult is done for you, like what to say and how to dress and where to stand, but it’s all on YOU to become that person. And for someone with a despondent, painfully shy existence, that feeling of everything being right is one that simply can’t be found anywhere else.
Fitting in socially isn’t important to me. I wear “Laura Ingalls Wilder” dresses, I only ever wear makeup if I’m in a show that day, and my phone is a flip phone. If I wanted to be a different version of myself in real life, I know how to make that happen. But the game where everyone understands that pretending to be somebody else is just pretend has become this incessant longing that I have no choice but to respond to.
And, going back to my opening statment, I think everyone can relate to this. Not everyone has the courage or indignity (or, let’s be honest, the talent) to get up on stage, but there are few who are not crazy into movies. I thought I was obsessed with plays and movies because I like to watch them critically as a fellow actress, but I realized there is something about the visual story unfolding in front of you that everyone likes to be immersed into. And I think one reason is because no matter how small, there is a tiny part of everyone who would love to know how it feels to be, not just a different version of themselves, but another person entirely.