Friday, October 22, 2010

I Gotta Be Me!

Does anyone remember that "Far Side" cartoon, where there's a group (herd? pride? gaggle?) of penguins and one of them is standing apart singing "I gotta be me?"
Dang, I LOVE "The Far Side."  We could use some of that NOW, I tell ya!

Anyway, I may have mentioned that I'm generally considered to be one of those creative, artistic types.  Personally, I think EVERYONE is a creative artistic type; some of the best, funniest emails I've ever read were written by IT guys, for example.
But I am one of those folks who earns her living by doing artsy things.  I have been forgiven, in the past, for erratic behavior.  But then I had kids and thought it was time to at least TRY to act like an adult.
Or to at least THINK about it.
So I put some things aside and focused on taking care of my kids.
Then about 2 years ago, I saw a documentary called "Autism: The Musical" about a woman in Los Angeles who runs a theater company for people with Autism.  They do a show every year, and every kid in that show has their moment to shine.  It may be a scene from the original play they've written, or a song, or a musical solo.  Basically, each of the kids' talents in put in the show somewhere. 
And the woman (whose name I cannot remember at the moment) got the idea from her actor friends.  See, when her son was first diagnosed, she brought her friends over and they would play with him.  They'd basically follow his lead; if he jumped around in circles, they jumped around in circles.  If he banged on a drum, they banged on a drum.  It was basically the same idea as Floortime therapy, but not quite as formal.  And because theses folks were actors, they weren't as self-conscious as other adults might have been.
One of the things I always loved about acting was the idea of always being playful.  This was especially true when I was doing comedy improvisation; the basic rule of improv is "Always say yes."  In other words, if I'm onstage and a fellow actor comes on and says "Hey Bob!  Congratulations on your promotion to head clown at the circus,"  I CANNOT say "Huh?! What the heck are you talking about?  I'm an accountant, and my name is Phyllis!"  No.  I HAVE to play along:  "Thanks Jerry!  I KNEW getting that Master's degree from clown college would pay off someday!"
One of my other favorite things was stage combat.  If you see a play or a film or watch TV and people are fighting, it's (almost) always very carefully choreographed.  (For a while I even thought about becoming a certified stage combat instructor/choreographer.  Hmmm...maybe I still will!) When you first learn the moves, it's done in slow motion, with A LOT of distance between you and your "opponent."  Gradually the moves get faster and you move closer together.  If you're doing a stage show, there is what is called a "fight call" before EVERY performance, in which every fight is rehearsed before the curtain goes up.  There are some hard and fast rules here, as well: the combatants MUST make eye contact before EVERY move, and the "victim" is always in charge.  So if a man is pulling a woman across the stage by the hair, he is actually just making a fist and placing it on her head.  She is holding on to his arm and pulling HIM across the stage.  This way everyone stays safe, and trust is developed between the actors.
I've always thought that this is how ALL acting should be done.  Because I wasn't one of those actors who needed to truly fear my scene partner in a dangerous scene.  Quite the opposite: I needed to TRUST my fellow actors implicitly in order to go deeply into the scene, physically and (especially) emotionally.
Now I think I need to live my life that way, as well.  I've always been a fairly cautious person.  I wouldn't get into cars with people I didn't know VERY well, or accept a drink from a stranger at a club (not that many were offered), or give my number out (to the few who asked). (I always got theirs, and never called 'cause I was too wussy.)
Of course, some may see this as common sense. 
But that seems to be severely lacking these days.
What I'm coming to realize is that I NEED creativity in my life in order to balance out all the maturity and adult-like behavior I'm trying to acquire.  Which, I think, is a big reason that all my favorite performers are people who aren't afraid to act a little silly.  A bit nutty.  To set aside that self-consciousness and go a little crazy in their performances.  In fact, the best actors I know are extremely well-adjusted people who "save it for the stage," as it were.  They don't need drama and insanity in their everyday lives, because they let it all hang out when they're performing.
(That's why we're so drawn to/repulsed by "reality" TV, I think.  When we see other people acting like psychotic drama kings and queens, it releases that part of ourselves.  In a safe way.  WE don't have to color ourselves orange and bitch-slap our so-called friends, because these reality stars do it for us. We can sit in judgment of them while sitting in our living rooms.  As long as we don't model our behavior after them, we're all good.  But then, some people DO model their behavior after them...)

So, one of my creative outlets is storytelling.  I make up stories in my head.  Sometimes I even write them down. I play them out in my imagination, with me as the star of course!  'Cause, hey, it's my brain, and I can do what I want with it!  In my head, I am brilliant, kind, funny, beloved, gorgeous, whatever I want to be. And I surround myself with whomever I want, as well!  I cast my own stories, and why not?
I've done this for as long as I can remember.  I used to be ashamed of it, but now I truly appreciate this ability. I LOVE my imagination!  And it's not as if I'm some Walter Mitty, letting my imaginary worlds take over reality.  Because my reality, warts and all, is pretty much rockin'.  But having that creative outlet, well...I really think it has save my sanity, on MANY occasions!
So what's your creative outlet? 'Cause you do have one, even if you don't know it. 

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