I give this lecture in my class every year as the holidays approach, and we spend quite a bit of time talking about and working with this topic. I’ll share a bit of it here. As we all know, a good acting class should challenge you, open you up, and get you in touch with your emotional life. It’s the process of unraveling yourself to be raw, present, vulnerable, and exposed. That’s what the acting instrument is – a present, vulnerable, affected being, raw with truth. Our work is to get in touch with and master our emotions, so we can utilize, not be victimized, by them.
Let’s talk about the holidays, as they often present moments that bring up many feelings (both positive and negative). The holiday season seems to be the time of year when depression heightens, drug prescriptions increase, liquor sales peak, loneliness intensifies, and people gain the most weight. But why?
One reason may be that during the holidays many issues come to the surface. It’s often the time of year when “family of origin issues” hit hardest. Many people need to comfort themselves, and in effect anesthetize themselves, in order to not feel the pain of their family issues, patterns, and histories.
Over the years I’ve noticed that many actors take a break from class over the holidays. They’ll say, “I’ll be off through the holidays, see you in January – need some time to think about things;” or “I’m short on money during this season;” or “I just need a break, and think this would be a good time.” I understand, it is a hectic time of year, and we all have lives we need to live.
But for those who choose to remain in class, I notice something powerful happens. This time of year can offer actors the opportunity to delve in and discover their uncomfortable feelings, then connect and dance with them. After speaking with many of my teaching colleagues, I have noticed that in November and December acting classes are the smallest, yet consistently boast the greatest number of breakthroughs and rapid creative growth. I believe during this time actors get more in touch with themselves; their vulnerabilities, anger, pain, and whatever unconsciously drives them.
My advice for those in class: work harder and take bigger risks. Share when appropriate. For those of you on break, I suggest to get a journal and write in it every day. Write down your feelings, what is going on in your world, what you’re grateful for, as well as what ails you. Have a catharsis on the page, if not the stage. For others, maybe a clean break is exactly what you need.
Whatever you decide, do it for the right reason for you. Be in touch with it, own it, and take care of yourself in the process. Whatever your personal situation, or your creative choices, embrace and enjoy this time of year, and I wish you the best during the upcoming holiday season.