The High School student blinks back tears.
“I know I did not do well with my monologue today. The other kids here are so good. I don’t know if I should just stop trying.”
I am the resident acting instructor at the Kimmel Center’s Showstoppers program. As we headed into our last weeks before showtime, the pressure was on for the students to nab the remaining juicy roles. I looked at my sad student, moved closer, and held her hands.
“You are not a bad actress,” I told her.
She sighed, letting the chair support her for the first time.
“But you know what we look for in acting, right?”
“To be real?”
“Yes. Do you think what you did was true to the character?”
“No. I was trying too hard.”
“Exactly. It’s good that you know that. What you were doing is called “indicating.” That means we are showing the audience how something should be done, or how we should feel. But if we try too hard it comes across as forced, flat and empty which is not a very good choice. It’s not that you are not a good actress, it’s that it wasn’t your best performance.”
I locked eyes with her. “Why are you here acting with our program?”
“To show a different side of me. To be more than just a sweet girl princess type of character.”
“Okay, good. I’ll write a character just for you.”
She brightened. “Really Ms. Blaine?”
“Yes, if you promise to stop trying so hard and enjoy yourself. That’s all the audience is looking for. They want to experience a great story and you have to transmit it by making interesting choices. Promise me you will try.”
“Yes, Ms. Blaine. I feel so much better already. I know you probably can’t tell, but I feel just so much better. I am so glad I spoke up.”
“Me too. In fact you speaking up is a good start to being more truthful in life as well as onstage, which will make you the best actress you can be.”