I had the classic quiet person’s spirit growing up. I was in love with beauty and language and literature and all things deep and beautiful.
And then, I fell dangerously in love with the theater.
I was eight and enrolled in a class (long enough ago) called “elocution.” I was to recite a poem whose words were so achingly beautiful to me that speaking them aloud all alone on that stage, bathed in that loving white light, was the most peaceful, spiritual feeling I’d experienced indoors. And ohh, that sensation of being deeply listened to, of communing with a silent rapt audience, well—as the youngest of a loud family—I’d arrived in heaven.
And so, cut to pouring my life force into becoming an actress. I’ve made my living doing it, but (as the great Joni Mitchell once sang) “one of the dreams that lost its grandeur coming true” was that so very often—in the theater, on a set, in an office—the pushy extrovert won the day, while I sat quietly by, feeling strangely mute. I so often found that sort of suck-up-all-the-oxygen-in-the-room personality to be exhausting (and generally irritating) and all too often felt myself to be—regardless of my ability to transform—temperamentally unsuited for my chosen profession.
As the frenzy of fame began to fiendishly grow from three channels to five hundred, as red carpets and cameras and all the trappings thereof multiplied exponentially, I found I was both terrified and allergic to pushing myself out there, grasping for the attention. And yet, I still depended on the system to make my living and to be seen as being cooperative. Especially since the characters I played were fractional people—that’s why they call ‘em parts and not wholes—and though I was and am truly grateful for the work, I was also profoundly artistically frustrated.
So I sculpted; I sang; I wrote songs; I even, briefly, tried to become a teacher. But kismet led me to writing and singing an odd little alt-country rock album called “DidnWannaDoIt!”, then to filming a performance art music video of the title track, and then to writing and recording an audiobook. I’m now pushing out a solo show, not at all because my personality is even remotely comfortable with or looking forward to the idea, but it seems to be a soul imperative that won’t be ignored.
And therein lies the constantly tricky part: I find it terribly, emotionally uncomfortable, even painful, to have these necessarily extroverted talents and yet a quiet and peaceable nature—especially in the performing arts, especially in this country.
I have become very good at acting as if I’m comfortable in almost any public situation, and I’ve become quite convincing (after all, I am a card-carrying, professional pretender). But the endless self-promotion, the getting on stage, and the walking into new crowds still feels like walking through rings of fire every time.
But also like so many of you, I keep on keeping on. I dance with my inward and outward demons, still feeling ever so at odds with it all.