I'm Michelle, The Actor. Right?!!
So! About a week ago I won this pretty fab award from the ‘bow down worthy’ institution known as Second City. It’s the Best New Comedy Award and I received it as part of Toronto Fringe for a show called The Philanderess (I mean everyone who worked on the show collectively received it… you know what I’m sayin).
Yep, it’s a great play written by the dynamic and adorable Sophia Fabiilli that features herself and five other uber talented actors.
It was our first Fringe Festival and we played to sold out houses every night, 5 N Reviews (for those of you outside of Toronto, 5 N’s is like the tippy top of indie theatre reviews), and took home not only the Second City Award but also were a Festival Patron’s Pick.
Pretty awesome right?!
Here’s the thing though, I wasn’t one of the actors in the production (gasp!) I directed it.
SO what I want to discuss with all you visitors to me’blog is: Does success in another artistic discipline make you less of an actor? Does it detract from your acting? Will people stop seeing you as a performer because all of a sudden you are cloaked in a whole other artistic definition? (yep. I went with ‘cloaked’).
Let’s talk it out.
I am a good director. It’s like helming a ship and I make a great captain (*note: I would love a captain’s hat if anyone wants to mail one my way).
That being said, it’s not my burning passion. It takes up a lot of time NOT acting and ultimately I would rather be the one creating the character and getting the pleasure of performing that creation.
SO when I would direct The Philanderess I was faced with these anxiety ridden thoughts in my head:
#1. This will take time away from acting!! What am I doing?
#2. If all goes well will people stop thinking of me as an actor and think of me as a director solely?
This is how I dealt with THOUGHT #1:
My fear of ‘forgetting how to act’ for the 3 week rehearsal period drove me into sheer performer panic.
And the cure for that panic? Overloading myself of course!
I registered in an acting class on Sunday nights during the Fringe rehearsal period and committed to co-writing a short film for myself….WHILE holding down a day job, rehearsing 3 nights a week, doing yoga 3 times a week and going to 3-4 auditions a week (which is great, don’t get me wrong! thank you agent).
TOTAL OVER COMPENSATION.
I was tired all the time, my schedule was literally 7 days a week 5am-midnight every day. But that irrational fear was palpable and frightening.
Now about dirty old THOUGHT #2:
Would people forget I was an actor?! Would I just disappear off the actor-landscape like Michael J Fox’s siblings in Back To The Future (please god someone get this reference)!
Okay, this one I tried to be cool about. I meditated on how ‘we can’t control others’ and ‘let go and trust people will see you for ALL that you are’… and other phrases that sound nice while meditating but are hard to hold onto once you blow out the candle and roll up the yoga mat (don’t judge. I’m from Vancouver Island, there’s a little hippy in all of us).
I ended up reminding everyone I know and their Mother that ‘yes I am directing this show BUT I’m really an actor.’ And I also told the world about every audition I had so they knew I was ‘really doin it’.
FAST FORWARD TO NOW and the return of my rational self (as rational as I get anyway):
I am still an actor. I was not forgotten. And directing that show rocked.
Reealllly Michelle? Are you suuuuure that’s true? (that’s you talking)
- People where reminded that I still exist! Actors, directors, coaches, producers wo I haven’t seen for a while came to see the show, saw my name, remembered I was out there and that I am a smart, creative force to be reckoned with.
- Being in any rehearsal is being part of an actor process. I spent 3 nights a week working on story, character arc, relationship, etc which are all essentially acting exercises. Yes it’s true I didn’t get to perform the result in the end but I got to work on 6 different characters at the same time!
- Fear is a powerful tool. I don’t know if I would have jumped on that acting class or taken the initiative to write a film if I wasn’t afraid of being forgotten or left behind. When I walked into auditions during those 3 weeks yes I was tired BUT it felt more like the fatigue of an athlete in training. I was ‘warm’ because I was in practice all the time. Analyzing an audition scene moved faster and easier because I was working on story every day.
- And as far as other people go, I’m trying to hold onto the fact that I can’t control how people think of me. I can only control how I present myself. This is DANG HARD to remember as I like to control as much as possible, but I think it’s really true.
All this to say, don’t get me wrong people, I crashed hard at the end of those 3 weeks. And there were definitely nights filled with tears and screams of ‘I can’t do it all! I just ca (sob) n (sob) t do it alllll (SOB)!’ But it taught me a lot about myself as a creative person and what I have the capacity to achieve.
What are your thoughts? Can a person ‘do it all’ successfully? Can one discipline inform another? Am I WAY off base/lying to myself and have successfully destroyed my acting career and none of you are willing to break it to me?
Over and out kids.
The Actor (and sometimes Director) Michelle
pssst, check it out (yes I realize my finger is covering the “outstand”-ing. but it’s there!):