Saturday, August 3, 2013

Creativity and Communication, or: More Thoughts on Playing in the Sandbox
Last Thursday night was the final session of another acting class I'd been able to take at the Guthrie through my internship, this one called Spontaneous Creativity, which focused on... well, yeah, spontaneity and creativity. I absolutely adored it, much as I did the Intro to Acting class - its focus on present-ness and being in the moment, like yoga, is incredibly refreshing and energizing. But this class also gave me an extra boost of confidence in the old creativity department. Here lately, I've beginning to worry that I'm running out of things to write about, on this platform and in fictional aspects. I've been doubting that I actually am creative (which makes me think of this absolutely terrifying video about how creativity is approached in children's shows. Found it on Tumblr a while back and it's haunted me ever since). I write about my own experiences - that's what I know. But I often worry that that's not good enough, that I am not interesting enough, or diverse enough or... well, downright creative enough to be able to write about anything with a unique twist.

After taking this class, I've been more confident about my abilities. Yes, I am limited by my own experiences - but many of them are unique or my view on them is different from how someone else might see it. Acting allows me to work through this in an interesting way - in the final class, we formed groups of two or three to perform a scene based on only seven words. We could only say these seven words once and use them to create some sort of situation or story. Most of the story had to be told through gesture and body language. In my group's scene, I was a waitress and I was terrified that I wouldn't be clear enough as to what I was doing. But apparently it worked - the audience (our other classmates) guessed almost exactly what we were doing. Though I have never been a waitress, I can imagine what it's like to be one and express it. This sounds simple and obvious but I felt confident in the actions I was doing while acting. It wasn't as if I were stumbling around trying to think of actions to do - I came up with fairly clear ones, drawing off the numerous times I've been to a restaurant, my recent and very short stint as a barista (two days; it might be record), and hearing my friends and family talk about restaurant work. Acting it all out gave me a different perspective from just hearing about it or writing about it - actually physically doing it blended my personal experiences and perception with a collaborative effort to convey a story to a group of people who are trying to understand what we are doing. Because it was vital to be understood and we succeeded, I felt some sort of confidence at this. The more I write and longer I live and the more I learn about humans and being human, the more I realize how difficult it is to communicate with each other. Our high functioning brains are brilliant and have built cities, but my God, sometimes it's so difficult to express the simplistic of things to each other.

Acting, I think, helps us out a bit with that. There's a quote I saw the other day from Ben Whishaw, from an interview he did for The London Magazine, that I especially like:
Theatre is about watching real people, in the moment – a connection between actors and audience. It’s a lie that takes you out of yourself. I think that’s important when everything we hear about is austerity and economics. There’s more to life than that.
Acting really does take you out of yourself. You stop worrying about yourself as an individual and begin to get a wider scope on things. Perhaps I'm connecting it to running because I've been doing a lot of that lately, but running also gives me a detached sense - I'm really focused on my body, but I'm also very focused on what's around me, from the pavement so that I don't trip to the landscape, focusing on things I'd never noticed or seen before. My mind feels very different when I'm running - less burdened, more open, more expansive. I end up feeling better physically and also more connected to the city, watching people as I run past, exploring new routes through Minneapolis and learning about my city. There's something about acting and running in how they interconnect with the mind, body, and the world. And they are also both very, very addicting.
I really, really enjoy acting. As a writer, it gives me a different creative perspective and view on things. Somehow, I want to keep this alive - maybe through more acting classes, clearly integrating aspects of it into my everyday life, doing murder mystery parties (because of reasons), and playing anarchy tag (it's like regular tag but everyone's it all of the time. Further details upon request :D). But most of all, what acting does encourages me to keep thinking and questioning and playing in the sandbox and, most of all, reminding me that we are not as alone as we might think. We may be separated by our minds and bodies, and language may be the biggest abstraction there is, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to bridge the gap between what we see and what others see.


  1. You've really hit home for me with this post. January before last I decided to start taking a beginner's acting class, mainly because the idea absolutely terrified me and I thought that there was no reason it should scare me that much. Since then I've been to a few more, and thoroughly enjoyed every one. The most recent class I attended was an 8 week exploration of The Tempest, where we worked on scenes that we then performed in front of a small audience of friends in the final week.

    It always takes me a few weeks to get used to escaping myself, because I am by nurture a very private closed-off person, but I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that you "stop worrying about yourself as an individual and begin to get a wider scope on things". I was given the part of Caliban when he meets Trinculo and Stefano, and at first I absolutely dreaded the rest of the course. Caliban was so far out of my comfort zone, I couldn't think of how to go for it at all. But I found I did have things to offer the part, and it might not have been the best Caliban in the world but I think my headcanon was as good as any. I remember there's a part where Caliban is really, really happy - "No more dams I'll make for fish, nor fetch in firing at requiring, nor scrape trenchering, nor wash dish. Ban, ban, Ca-Caliban, has a new master, get a new man. Freedom, high day, high day, freedom, freedom, high day, freedom." On the evening of the performance I just let myself go as much as I possibly could, and it was one of the best feelings in the world to step away from yourself and be a part of something else for a while.

    Sorry, I'm rambling. My point is, I really want to continue with acting classes but my options are very limited at the moment (just moved into a new flat and budget is so tight I'm worried about spending too much on food, let alone paying for an acting class). I really hope you manage to keep it up in some way, because it is one of the best things in the world in my opinion. I don't think everyone should be a professional actor, but I do think everyone should take acting classes from time to time!

    1. How wonderful you've gotten the chance to take some acting classes - and with Shakespeare! Caliban would be wonderful to play - he's such a fascinating character. I'm moving soon myself and still technically unemployed, so I understand being limited for classes. But I absolutely agree- everyone should have the chance to take acting class; I think I've learned more in one of those four week sessions than I have in some of my college classes!