Monday, October 7, 2013

I Turned Into Someone Else

9:30 on Saturday morning in early October and it’s already 85 degrees and steadily climbing. There I am, sitting in my car, which is parked where Wilshire bisects MacArthur Park near downtown. I’m parked directly where the park’s bridge is – the bridge Anthony Kiedis sings about in Under the Bridge. This morning, the park seems nice, it doesn’t look like a place junkies would go to trying to score. Maybe it’s the heat?

I’m there to shoot a scene in a short film. On the corner of Wilshire and Alvarado, I will be dancing – alone – on a busy Saturday morning. And this place is jumping. There are already a hundred pedestrians passing by every couple of minutes. And there’s one problem: for some reason on this morning, I just don’t feel like dancing. It is before 10 on a Saturday morning after a long week, after all. Dancing in ninety-degree sun wasn’t what I was feeling. What I wanted was pancakes and Netflix. As I sit in the car, I remind myself that whatever feeling I feel is always the same feeling the character is feeling – it’s just created by the story.

Once it’s close to my call time, I head on over to the corner where we are to meet. Introductions and hand-shaking and small talk warm me up. Luckily, my scene will be up first.

I’ve brought my headphones to listen to something – anything while we setup and in between takes. The character I’m playing is meant to be dancing to music in his head so there won’t be music playing while I’m dancing. On a busy street corner on a Saturday morning. I had been mentally preparing myself, but you just don’t know how crazy it’s going to be until you do it. Now get this: for the first setup, the camera will be across the street. I’ll be really alone, like alone for real. This was gonna be a straight up situation.

All of a sudden I felt like a prostitute working the track.

My director calls action on the first take and I start dancing. The energy on the corner changes immediately. The people walking by are affected by my dancing. And I get it; it’s weird. There’s some dude dancing to no music like it ain’t no thing. I had thought people would be “over it,” but no. This is not normal. Some people stop and stare, a few even take pictures with their phone. And I just had to keep dancing. I felt a strange mix of armor and freedom. Once they’ve already started to stare, there’s no longer a reason to hide.

After a couple of takes, I loosened up a little. And as soon as I loosened up, people started to interact with me, even getting in my face. Now I’ve performed in a lot of plays and musicals, sung in choruses and played in orchestras – I’m no stranger to live performance. But I realized then and there how protected you are in a theater. Even if the theater is so intimate that you can lean over and unwrap an audience member’s piece of candy you are still protected. No one is going to hop up on stage.

Having people getting in my face was even more liberating. People we making faces at me and smiling, no one was sending me anger or hate – they were clearly having such a fun moment that they had to let me know. It almost felt as if people felt a need to show me that they, too, were full of love.

My adrenaline was going through the roof.

We moved on to close-ups and coverage and my brain was starting to get tired. It’s funny, when dancing to music your body gets tired, but when dancing without music your brain gets fatigued having to make everything up – you’re not being led by the beat. And as soon as my brain got tired, we were done.

As I drove home, I felt as if had just learned so much about myself. About armor and freedom. That what protects you from the judgment – even if the judgment is only coming from yourself – the armor is hidden inside the expression of what you’re doing. The lack of barriers or boundaries becomes the armor and you just let go. I left feeling completely different than the person who drove there that morning. I left feeling like I turned into someone else.

And I'm not looking back.

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