That magical moment
The business of acting and maintaining your life while doing the business of acting can be a drag. Some of my students have several jobs, drive hours in bad traffic to an audition just to say hello on camera and hand in a headshot, and share all kinds of stories in class about long hours on a set in bad weather with just a (donut/bag of chips/cold pizza) to eat.
These are the times that try our souls and for some of us, make us want to quit. I've had several times in my career where even though I never officially announced (to anyone who was listening) I had quit, I had definitely checked out mentally. My running joke has been, "Who do I ___ to get me out of this business?"
And then I remember why I got in this business. It was the moment I fell in love with acting.
I wish I could say it was at the Barrymore Theatre on Broadway performing "The Seagull" for an adoring crowd of luminaries, including the president, who wiped tears from their eyes as we bowed during our fifth curtain call. No, actually it was at the Brookside School PTA meeting in San Anselmo, where my classmates and I had written and would perform a sketch from the Peanuts comic strip.
I don't remember many details. I vaguely remember playing one of the boy characters, probably Charlie Brown. I also remember the girl who played Lucy was a classmate with whom I had a friendly competition. We were both funny and were always trying to "out-funny" each other.
The auditorium was packed with an audience that included my father, a guy with a good sense of humor but he was also a forbidding presence. I don't recall my mother being there - she may have been home cleaning up baby vomit. It was my first time acting in front of a large crowd, not to mention my dad. I wasn't nervous - I was excited. This Peanuts material was good, solid, crowd-pleasing stuff. I knew that much.
The sketch began. The heart of the sketch was my argument with Lucy and it was getting appreciative parental chuckles. So far, so good - not great, but hey, it was the PTA.
And then something awesome happened. I forgot my lines.
Even though I don't recall the minutiae from that night, I do remember that moment. I froze momentarily. I stared at the other kids on stage and they stared back at me with wide eyes. I looked at Lucy - my classmate rival - and from out of nowhere, I began a rant where I repeated her lines and began to mimic her gestures. And then I made up some of my own lines, but in character. This took me across the stage and back, totally unrehearsed, unscripted. My classmates thought I had lost my mind.
There was silence from the audience. And then a roar. It continued for a good minute. I snuck a peek out and my dad was wiping tears from his eyes. And I got it. That moment of connection. That moment of forgetting who I was and being so in character that I was speaking in that character's voice. That feeling of something pure emanating from me was being happily received and bounced back to me, filling me from my toes up with indescribable joy. Yeah, I was a kid and it was a Peanuts sketch for an audience of parents. But that was my moment. It became the first of many moments that happened later in my life, but you never forget your first.
So at your lowest point, when you're ready to quit, ask yourself - what was my moment when I fell in love with this? Take yourself back there. And then take yourself to moments that are yet to happen, a moment you want to create, that will make all of this drudgery worth it. That feeling may carry you through your drive to that next audition.
And maybe that next audition could be a moment for you to write about, to inspire us.
Copyright 2016 Andi Matheny/Andi M. Inc. - may not be republished without permission.