Theatre as a Catharsis

6 Jun

I love acting for many reasons. I love being able to be inside the mind of a completely different person, trying to take on a whole new view of the world. I love interacting with other people in scenes, creating a whole new world where these characters matter. I love how it holds the mirror up to the audience, allowing them to see bits of themselves in the characters I’ve played. These are the core reasons I love acting.

I’m in a short scene for directing class right now. It’s a nice little bit, and the scene ends with me screaming at my fellow actor and then us embracing. During all the rehearsals all I could think was, “Man. I am awful at acting angry.” I’m not really a screamer in the angry sense. When I’m angry I get quiet, stoic, and mean, but there have been so very few occasions in my life where I’ve actually yelled at someone out of anger. This, unfortunately, translates on stage, because it seems like whenever I’m in a scene/play that involves me getting super angry I have to work extra hard at it because, goddamn, I’m the worst at pretending to be angry.

Right now I’m at a very stressful point in my life. I’ve got a lot of finals coming up and I’m trying to figure out how to pay next month’s rent without crawling to my dad crying for help. Due to all this, today was an overtly stressful day. One of those days where you just want to punch everyone you pass in the goddamn face, so you avert all eye contact in order to make sure that doesn’t happen. Top that off with being frustrated with the guy I like, being irate with a teacher for her lack of punctuality with an email, and the realization that my best friend is leaving me in less than a month, well, I was in a shit mood is what I’m saying.

So I get to the directing class today and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh man. Oh man. I do not want to be here today. Five minutes ago I was crying in the bathroom. I just want to go home.” But I stayed. Of course I stayed. Another group went, doing a poorly staged scene from one of my all time favorite plays by Sarah Ruhl, and then it was our turn. The majority of the scene went adequately. I fumbled over a couple lines, which only added to my inner turmoil. Then came the ending of the scene; my yelling bit. It started normally, but then it escalated. It escalated to a point we hadn’t reached before. My shoves, while stage-safe and in no way harming my fellow actor, came more rapidly and brutal-looking. There was an air of despair in my cries; a tone of hurt. I sounded downright mean; downright desperate. In the end, when he grabbed my arms and looked at me, I remember the feeling of the cries stopping dead in my throat, my chest heaving. We then embraced, as the stage directions demanded, and I felt myself shaking as I hugged him tighter than I’ve ever hugged anyone.

I left quickly after the scene was through.

Needless to say, I felt much better after that. It was nice to be able to draw from my shitty, shitty day and make a powerful ending to the scene. Performance is such a cathartic experience. You’re able to gather up all this emotion that you usually keep bottled up inside you and just… release.

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