This time of year reminds me of my childhood when imagination and magic filled the air.
Santa Claus, Elves, the North Pole, sitting on Santa’s lap, writing letters to Santa, Christmas ghosts, Saint Nick, flying reindeer, the Grinch, Peanuts, Santa’s sleigh, hearing the Night before Christmas read to me, and the highlight, a reading of the famous letter, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”, by my father that was cut out from a real newspaper. Oh, the magic of Christmas! It can be a great time for children where imagination and fantasy is alive and well, and we all believed.
I am reminded of one Christmas where I had one of my greatest acting lessons.
Not from one of the many acting teacher masters that I had the opportunity to study with, but with my then, 4 year old niece. Let’s call her Tracy. I was in my 20’s, and an ambitious, passionate actor. I went to my niece’s home for Christmas and she was so proud to show me her new kitchen that Santa brought her. She asked me if I wanted some eggs and that she would cook them on her stove. Being the confident and somewhat arrogant actor that I was, I said yes, and thought I’d teach her a few things about imaginary circumstances. After all, I was a trained actor.
So, she went about cooking scrambled eggs on her plastic imaginary stove while I watched. She was quite detailed and I was proud of her. She put the imaginary eggs on my plate and handed them to me. I reached down to eat the eggs with my imaginary fork and she said, “Uncle Fran, don’t eat with your fingers, here, use a fork”. She then handed me an imaginary fork. Then she gave me an imaginary napkin. I ate the eggs and she offered me coffee. I said yes and she poured me a cup of imaginary coffee. I started to drink it and she yells, “Not so fast! It’s hot; you’ll burn your tongue!” I slowed down and drank it slowly. She asked, “Don’t you want some cream and sugar?” “Why yes, I said” and waited. She said, “Its right there in front of you, didn’t you see me put it down in front of you when I gave you the coffee? I was busted, this young child showed me up, she had more specifics and her imagination was full, complete, and detailed.
I was blown away; I was reminded of how concentration, specifics, and details are so important in our work. One of my teachers said, “Technique is important, but sometimes you just need to immerse yourself into the imaginary circumstances fully and completely, and the rest will take care of itself.” This young child sure showed me up and taught me a lot. Imagination, specifics, details, and simple play is so much of what we do. Don’t lose that as you get into your techniques.