“What do you do?”
A common question, especially in Los Angeles. I used to struggle with how to answer that.
When I first moved to LA, I did not want to be called an actress. I wasn’t comfortable owning that label. I hadn’t studied at Juilliard, I wasn’t a classically trained thespian, nor did I attend a conservatory program.
Who was I to call myself an actress? “I’m a host!”, I’d declare.
In the last 13 years, I’ve studied with some of the best teachers in LA: Scott Sedita, Lesly Kahn, Anthony Meindl, Brian Reise, and most recently, Loren Chadima. Each has taught me different aspects of the business as well as acting techniques, all useful in my work.
I’ve really gravitated toward Loren because, well, I really like her. She makes me truly feel like an artist. Her warmth allows me to be fearless. I don’t worry about displeasing her. There’s no such thing as getting it wrong. It’s all about exploration and living the experience of the scene. I resonate with that and have grown as an actress.
Her class is called Intentional Acting. That word, intention, comes up a lot for me.
As a yoga student and teacher, we set an intention at the beginning of each class. As a wife, I’m working to be intentional with my words and actions. Clear communication, the foundation of any great relationship, relies on intentions. If we’re constantly trying to figure out the hidden meaning, it’s exhausting. Intention is empowering.
Loren has a worksheet we do for each scene. It’s called the 9 questions. #4 is intention: What do I want the other person to do or say? Another that I love is #9: How can I use this scene to benefit me?
At first I didn’t quite understand that.
Recently I was working on a scene from Silver Linings Playbook. It’s the scene where Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are in the diner; very complicated. To help us, Loren asked, “How can you use this scene to accept a part of yourself?”
That question ripped me open. It gave me the permission I needed to be raw in my work. As a host, I’ve worked hard to create a polished image. There are parts of me that I’d rather not acknowledge. But I don’t have to dwell on these things to accept them and appreciate them for making me a whole, complex, interesting, unique human.
Coincidentally, Erwin McManus, the preacher at Mosaic I talked about last week, recently touched on this in church. Don’t let people pull you back into your past. Own it. And see how far you’ve come as God’s grace in your life. You are not the things you’ve done. People can and do change. You are allowed and encouraged to grow.
It’s freeing and exhilarating to accept the shadows in our lives. It doesn’t mean we are still living in the dark or tempted to go back, just that we know where we’ve been and we’re no longer there. We’re choosing the light.
All art forms are healing. Acting is therapy for me. As an actress, I can truly accept parts of myself I’ve tried to hide from. It doesn’t make me a bad person to own to up to that. It actually makes me a better actress, a better wife, and, someday, a better mother.
Running from your past won’t make it go away.
I am an actress… but now, that title feels too limiting. I’m not just one thing. I have a lot of interests and hobbies. I teach yoga, I host TV shows, I cook, I write, I paint, I tell stories.
I am a creator. We all are. Humans are creative beings. So now, I am embracing a new title: artist. That feels more fitting.