It was a Tuesday at 3pm. And much like every Tuesday at 3pm, I had dreams. Dreams of sitting at my table with a coffee and the newest anthropologie catalogue, gazing at a laced funnel neck bell-sleeved pullover. (Too many descriptors, anthro. Whatever. I still want it.)
OH! Or this! This tutu is perfect for say, leaning against the crumbling ruins of Mycenae in Greece at dusk. Which I do often.
Would I sleep better on a bed made of gold? These are things my wandering mind wants to ponder.
But I have a toddler and a baby. Rosalyn is 19 months old, which means I almost have two toddlers.
And while my toddler/baby hybrid was sleeping, my much older toddler was not. He wanted to play.
In a flash of inspiration, it came to me.
“Jack. Do you want to play treasure hunt?” He does.
I held up the anthropologie catalogue. “Right here is the map, my man.” Jack grabs a rubber band and a toy fishing pole (as you do when you leave for a treasure hunt). “We are off in search of riches! In search of rubies…and a Syden button-down tank and it’s on saleohmygosh!”
“Alright Jack. First, we start by crossing this dilapidated bridge, just like the one this girl is standing on in her chunky cable knit sweater.” Together, we precariously walk along a tiny stretch of couch. I point out to my son that we are in danger of falling into the rapidly moving river below our couch-bridge. I turn to him with wild Mel-Gibson eyes, grab him by the shoulders and whisper “If we don’t clear this jump, we’re going over that waterfall.” I clutch him to my chest. His eyes are enormous. He nods. He believes me.
We hold hands and jump for land (the ottoman.) We clear the terrifying river and he is so relieved, he could cry. We rejoice. But the long and perilous journey still lies ahead. I’m feeling fancy at this point, so I start to make up clues in couplets, describing the next location on our treasure hunt. “Pass the old farm house, quickly let’s go! Now through the meadow all covered in snow!” (I didn’t say it was inspired poetry. Shut up.) So we pass the old farmhouse (my piano) and the meadow (my son’s room) and eventually we work our way through the whole catalogue and discover the treasure. (Spoiler alert: Treasure was next to the front door the whole time. Don’t you hate it when you misplace your priceless gems?)
The amazing thing about this game is that my son believed every single part of the story. He asked to do the treasure hunt over and over again. He thought the anthropolgie catalogue was an ancient map; the wardrobe to Narnia. (But I guess we all believe that, or we would not be paying $200 for a turtleneck.)
I asked myself: “When is the last time I believed a script that way?” I don’t remember the last time I approached an audition with that kind of child-like wonder.
Don’t get me wrong: I get a little charge each and every time I see a script. I’m always excited about the work. But my analytical brain wants to take the control back. A tiny, hateful voice assures me that I might look silly. The job becomes “the bad boyfriend” Amy Poehler describes in her book. (Have you read her book? READ HER BOOK.)
This week, I’m reminded that failure is not something to be feared. Cultivate your actor’s faith. Feel safe knowing that the idea of failure is dead, unconnected from you and your work. This is an art form that requires failure. It’s built upon it.
But that sounds nebulous, right? How do you “work” on actor’s faith? Practice living truthfully in imagined circumstances. When you make your bed in the morning, don’t you ever pretend to be a servant working the manor at Downton Abbey? And your boss is a rich and sexy Earl who looks a lot like Matthew Dearing? Just me?
In all seriousness: Practice imagination. Put yourself in a scenario and improvise. Aloud or silently. Ask yourself to believe in something that isn’t really happening. Approach your work with softness and curiosity. Ask your heart to give whatever you have, whatever you’re capable of to the work in this moment. Then ask for a little more.
Work on a scene with another actor friend, or take a scene study.
Read plays. Read a lot of them. Read some of them out loud.
And maybe hang out with a three year old.
Until next time, act with passion.