March 25th, 2013

Oregon Coast 1

"I thought you'd died -- alone. A long, long time ago." "Oh, no. Not me. We never lost control..."

I could not be an actor.

A performer, maybe. David Letterman or Conan O'Brien, for two examples, are performers, but they aren't actors in the "submerge yourself in the part" way. Lyricist Howard Ashman was a performer; I can tell from his wonderful demos of his Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast songs (and the early Aladdin songs that he an Alan Menken wrote in the Eighties; sadly, Ashman was ill at the end of his too-short life and didn't have the energy to demo the later songs he wrote, like "Prince Ali"). I can admire actors for the myriad tricks they use to become Someone Else: body language, speaking language, being able to look at the words "Oh my God" in a script and have a good guess whether to say "Oh, my, God" or "Oh my GAWD!!!" But I'd get paralyzed by the almost infinite possibilities of performance that an actor must think about.I can intellectually appreciate the work, but it has no pull for me.

Probably the most I've ever "acted" on video was for a friend's Star Trek video, "Star Trek: The Dying Chicken and the New Dimension," a Classic Trek/Monty Python mashup loaded with in-jokes (our Enterprise included a toilet! That actually flushed!) that we did in high school. I was the redshirt who doesn't die as easily as you'd expect (my friend and I being Python fans, he gave me the line "Um, I'm not quite dead, actually"). I badly faked getting hit by an alien monster -- we were more concerned with Not Getting Hurt than making the alien monster attack look good -- and expired in one shot. Aaaaaand I was out. I was one of the cameramen for the rest of the shoot; I blew one take by laughing.

Mmmmmmaaaaaaaybe I have the chops to act with my voice, though Wil Wheaton need not fear me taking his jobs. Using my voice can be fun. Using my whole body and mind as an actor, in front of a camera or a large audience: still not my bag. Leave that to the many professionals (like local actor Ryan McCluskey, who I'm getting to know) who enjoy it.

Plus I think I'd have trouble separating the acted emotions from real emotions, and the acted connections from real connections. With me being an often intense person, that could be a bad situation. And another one of the few genuine performances I've given, I got spun up maybe more than I should.

It was for a dramatic reading in college. Several of my fellow University of Oregon Honors College students were getting together that night to do arty and fun stuff. We'd be encouraged to recite stuff -- poetry ideally, but song lyrics would be allowed.

Soon before I started preparing for the get-together, I was in my dorm room dealing with my dumb ass finally, finally, coming to terms with the knowledge that I had absolutely no chance of getting involved as more than a friend with the young woman, Lori, I'd crushed on my freshman college year. Wishful thinking can be TOUGH to overcome, but that day in that case I finally did it. Emotionally intense, though it wouldn't have looked that way to anyone looking at me.

(Oh, and also, what else happened between The Realization and The Gathering? Another intense experience: going across campus and seeing The Night of the Hunter for the first time. That film wrung me. I came close to running out of the lecture hall a couple times during that screening. Later, I wrote "The Night of the Hunter made me want to throw up. I mean that in the best possible way.")

By the time that night that I got to our "let's be arty!" gathering at the HC building, I knew what I'd be reciting. I'd grabbed the booklet for my CD of Dire Straits singles. I recited -- with some slight editing to make the lyrics more poetic in their flow (as lyrics and poems are closely related but not exactly the same) -- "Romeo and Juliet."

Yeah, the line "And all I do is miss you and the way we used to be" didn't correspond exactly with my never-a-dating-relationship with Lori, but the way I was feeling about her? Informed that like whoa. Informed that a lot. And I actually, genuinely impressed my fellow college students with my reading. (Or they were humoring me. Maybe some were. But some were impressed.) And there I was, spun up. Still spun up.

How much does an actor need to do that? More than I'd be comfortable doing.

It's possible to perform without getting wrung out. But I feel I'd get similarly worked up, for different reasons, if this happens: someone does a dramatic reading of the David Bowie song "The Man Who Sold the World."

But trust me, I'd kind of like to at least hear that. The Nirvana cover of that song is one of those songs I could listen to over and over. There's a story there. Probably not one that I could even remotely apply to my life. Luckily.