I write this every week, but I can't believe how fast this is going. In one week we will putting on our show (Opera Reconstructed: Trump'd--Yes, it's exactly what you think it is...well...maybe not EXACTLY).
During our wrap-up Friday, we spoke a lot about self-realization, and I was no exception. Some days I struggled this week (though, finding the Freudian Sip location in the Oviatt Library REALLY helped!), but looking back at this week I learned a lot about myself and the nature of how I hold myself back. Below are just three of the fears I faced this week, and probably didn't conquer, but rather observed, faced, and made weaker.
#1 Fear of Being Unprepared: I always hated improv. I am a person who enjoys structure and planning, and improv always seemed to strip my safety nets away leaving me hurdling through the abyss of "Be funny or die!" Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but needless to say the thought of improv gave me panic attacks. However, in our third week here, I found myself really looking forward to Improv with Laura. It's become a time to play and just let all the goofy ideas out of my head without judgement. If it doesn't work, we move past it in an instant. There's really no time to feel embarrassed or panicked.
We also experimented this week with the option of being more serious. We played with our characters from the show and made up monologues over background music, and I realized that I actually genuinely enjoy that sort of improv! While I may not be running out to start a dramatic improv team, it was tremendously helpful in developing a strong sense of my character for the show and getting me out of my own head.
Beyond basic Improv, we also have classes in Musical Improv with Ann. Again, the prospect was terrifying: Coming up with music on the spot?! How is that possible?! I survived my first week with some jitters. The second week I wanted to get up, but let fear keep me from volunteering to do a solo. I regretted letting nerves get the better of me, so this week I asked specifically to do it. Ann played beautiful harmonies while I constructed a melody for a pre-written text, and (guess what?!) I didn't die! Ok, it wasn't a masterpiece (or maybe it was in its own way--you be the judge!), but it was beautiful nonetheless, and pushing myself in that way was incredibly satisfying. I do not need to let my nerves control me. I can make music beyond any negative thought I may have.
#2 Fear of being awkward: That in itself seems awkward, doesn't it? I think so, too, and yet this week when I spoke with David after another session of "Condancing" (ie: Conducting the music in a free manner, akin to dance), that's what I found myself explained to him. He asked why I seemed to hold back in his class, since it seemed to really help my musicality when I let myself do it. Earlier he mentioned I looked elegant doing the movements. I told him everyone always thinks I look very elegant, but the real me doesn't feel elegant inside; I feel awkward. And if everyone sees me as elegant, I certainly don't want them realizing that I'm a horrendously awkward individual. I didn't realize how much I was afraid of that until that moment I articulated it and had to hold back tears. I went into the next class with Ann thinking, "This is the class I have a break down." I talked to my friend Kelly, and told her there was a good chance I was going to cry about all of this, and she asked, "Well, what's the worst case scenario for that? You feel awkward. That's it." I had to admit...she had a point. :P
I decided to sing the same song in Ann's class and she told me to act it out fully, and surprisingly I fell into that action without a thought as to what had come before...but really, that's how I work. I ACT. That comes easily to me. Acting as someone else has always felt freeing to my shy, introverted and, yes, awkward self. It may seem depressing, but part of the reason I do what I do, even when it's hard, is that I feel most alive when I'm being someone else. When I am exploring another personality, I feel closer to people, and I think that's the point of theater, right? Bringing humanity into conversation with itself, whether it be person to character or character to audience. It's about making connections you don't necessarily get in real life.
The majority of the philosophy here centers around the fact that your uniqueness is what will set you apart from others; the mere fact that you are you, and no one else can be that. And while it may appear that I am somehow stowing part of myself away to perform, I think it is the exact opposite. I think I need to embrace the part of me that allows myself to play, and if that part needs to be defined as someone other than myself, well...that's just how I work. And my "performance self" is someone I am particularly proud of, so I think I need to give her a little bit more space to work and grow. :)
#3 Fear of not being ready: Friday before our weekly wrap-up session we always have Movement class with Paula. This week, she had us to do movement exploration from our "past" to our "future," moving from one corner of the room to the opposite. I have to admit, as I waited for the music to start, I was internally rolling my eyes. This seemed cheesy, and wouldn't we all just walk across? But I put on my game face and imagined all of the things I wanted (jobs, relationships, etc...) in the corner opposite me. I was behind people to start, but instead of waiting for the crowd to move I weaved my way through, and began my slow, steady walk to the corner. About half-way across the room, I realized I felt very ahead of my peers and slowed down. It felt wrong to be first, but as others creeped into my periphery I suddenly felt that I didn't want to be behind them. I allowed myself to pull forward, but then I looked back. I looked past my colleagues on their own journeys and tried to think of my own past, what I let hold me back. I realized that I didn't want any of it anymore: any of the excuses or worries I allow to deter me--the past did not hold the appeal I thought it would. I lurched forward again, and let myself reach the corner. In my head I thought, "Now what do I do?" I followed my body into a fluid motion of holding on to the wall and reaching back towards my past. As I tried to focus on what I left behind, I noticed a colleague not too far away reaching her hand out to me. We locked eyes and I grabbed her hand to bring her to the corner, as well. And then we both proceeded to help those who reached out to us, until it seemed a natural end to that game when those coming forward didn't seem to need our help.
This journey was deeply personal for everyone, so I will only speak to my own experience, but I ended in awe of the moving metaphor I had just created unknowingly. I did not realize how ready I feel to start accomplishing and working towards my dreams. I did not realize how much of the past I genuinely don't care to carry with me anymore. And I didn't think about how my goals are not the endgame; there's always something afterward that you could not have predicted, and maybe just being open to possibility can bring joy.
I left class much more grounded and realized than when I entered, and it made me reflect on my past week much more thoughtfully than I had before: Each class, each struggle, each obstacle (real or imagined) that I have encountered here is a micromovement towards my future. This isn't a training program. This is a progress program. These four-weeks are meant to make you realize how far you already are and how far you can go. I already feel like I've gained so much wisdom and skill from this program...And lucky me, I get another week! It's going to be very hard to leave, I can already feel that, but I know when I do that the impact of this program and the people here will last a lifetime.