One mind blowing lesson I’ve faced recently is the need to counteract the habits in my life that permit me to become passive– especially when I speak. Someone close to me asked what I was doing and I responded “not much, just chillin’.” I wasn’t actually chillin’… I was actually knee-deep in script work that I was excited about, but didn’t want to give the energy to explain myself. I know many of us are guilty of this type of communication (or non communication), because we like the way it makes us seem cool and collected.
The fact is, adopted slang terms and the resulting casual behavior are keeping us from using language to say what we mean. We allow our vocabulary to become unspecific so we can hide behind a blank wall. We come to believe that wall is our friend. Wall is a wonderfully safe hiding place. Wall makes us look like everyone else. Wall protects our emotions, thoughts, and ideas. Wall doesn’t allow us to be vulnerable to the soul of another human. WOW. How can we expect to learn more about the human condition if we don’t attempt to be open with others? To learn about our true selves and reveal this without apology? To accept the parts of us that don’t fit into society’s perfect box? By “just chillin’” in the ordinary, we rob ourselves of the chance to be extraordinary– for more on this, read Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting (click to purchase on Amazon). I believe this book should be in every actor’s library.
Hagen says: “Vowels and consonants spat out represent our wishes” (32). The words we say literally give life to what we believe and want. If we cover up with words that don’t mean anything, we never get the chance to learn what exactly it is we believe and want. If our humanity is revealed through words, we can learn about it by using our words. If we speak our minds, we can unleash so many technical parts of our bodies and souls, many of which we probably didn’t know we had and especially didn’t know we were protecting. As artists, it is our duty to discover whenever possible–and discovering more about our humanity reveals to us human action in a play. What does the character believe and want? How do they use each and every word to say what they mean? To change the other person in the room? We can’t tackle another person’s life as fully as possible without first tackling our own.
Luckily, passivity is a habit and can be stripped away with hard work and attention every day. So today, I will simply notice when I choose passivity over full, tender, open presence. I will try to understand why I choose to hide in the passive. And the next time I feel myself ninja-sliding behind Wall, I will see what happens if I don’t.
Mantra: My words matter. My ideas matter. I will say what I mean.