Do you believe you can act? If I called you up on stage and presented you with a premise, what kind of a scene would you create?
How would your scene unfold? Who would your protagonist be and what would his struggles be? Which experiences in your life would you draw upon? Would you be able to let go of your self-consciousness to immerse yourself into the character?
Everyone believes they can act. In reality acting or assuming a different personality is very hard. Some believe that acting is in fact duplicitous, to the contrary you have to be extremely true to yourself before you can become a good actor.
I am skeptical of whether Dumbledore could have really been deceived by someone he worked with for an entire school year (Spoilers!). You see only a true actor can stay in character, amateurs often give themselves away.
Watching a talented actor at work is a gift. It is their job to create a make believe world that welcomes you, intrigues you, or repulses you. You can see when an actor’s audience is utterly convinced, has suspended disbelief and is invested in the scene. No matter the feeling that an enacted scene evokes in the audience, at its very best it leaves them with different worldview.
I enrolled in drama lessons to step outside my comfort zone and learn from others who were pursuing acting as a profession. As someone who has predominantly worked with analytical professionals up until now, training with these creative artists and their exceedingly creative director has provided me with plenty of fodder in my creative pursuits.
I confess that working with these artists has left me with no uncertainty as to where my talents lie. I might adequately acquit myself as a writer but a professional actor I will never be!
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I share these lessons here with the hope that you too will attempt something new in your own life. You may pick up an interesting story to narrate about your creative pursuits. Something you can use to surprise your co-workers at an icebreaker or delight a child when you show up as their mystery reader.
Feel free to utilize the lessons I list here to stretch your creative muscles!
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Lessons from Drama Class : Improvisation
Have you watched the show “Whose Line Is It Anyway“? My favorite part of that show used to be the ludicrous audience suggestions. I used to watch entire episodes just to observe which of those suggestions or skits was the most ridiculous. Those are some brave and funny actors!
In drama class I was fortunate enough to participate in a much milder version of improv. There were no props and no audience. But there was plenty of imagination. Well, not initially on my part, but plenty from the other actors.
The most interesting thing I learned in Improv is that when we are challenged creatively we reach for our default references. By that I mean, if I were to ask you to enact a scene, you would choose the one you are most comfortable with, the one you might have read about or watched on a show.
As much as I have professed my desire here to channel my creative side, I initially found myself not being very creative at all. I invariably reverted to my default interests in attempting to kindle my imagination.
My true inspiration came from my acting colleagues, who would often tackle new and interesting subjects. They challenged stereotypes and demonstrated their creative prowess – a grown man acting like a child, someone assuming the part of a person of different ethnicity or actors saying things that we all think but refrain from verbalizing.
I wouldn’t quite say that I can now perform improv with ease, but I can draw upon a rich tapestry of ideas. It has helped me build my self-confidence and mentally equipped me to face unfamiliar situations.
How can you capitalize on Improv in your life?
- Think more creatively: An exposure to improv can help you in any number of ways. It can promote self-confidence, expand your external references and reduce your self-consciousness.
- Anticipate the unexpected: Have you ever been thrown into situations where just the right word, phrase or comment escapes you? Yea, me too! When you begin to think creatively you are able to build a larger repertoire of responses fitting any situation. You too can defend your quaint little shop around the corner.
- Understand the people that surround you: None of us will ever know what someone else feels or what moves them; the events that transpire in their lives and the hardships that they face. Drama or comedy gives you a brief glimpse into someone else’s world. When you make the time to observe and understand others, you can learn much about the human experience. You can form deeper connections within your circles. You can serve the world better.
- To portray a character inhabit their world: The saying “fake it till you make it” might sound odd coming from me because I emphasize authenticity. However, you will never fulfill your dreams if you continue to see yourself as an impostor when facing new challenges. Instead learn to inhabit the character of the person that you want to become. If you want to be a writer, think like a writer and act like a writer. If you want to be a senior executive, find a successful executive in your company and learn from her actions. What does she do on a daily basis? What kind of a leader is she?
Lessons from Drama Class : Monologue
Monologues are a staple in the audition process. When an actor is performing a monologue, it is often just a single character on stage expressing his or her thoughts aloud. Occasionally the actor may address another character or the audience in the monologue. But in all cases the spotlight is on every single move the actor makes and every single word that he speaks.
Monologues are almost the exact opposite of improvisation in many ways. But they have huge benefits for an actor. While performing a monologue actors can carefully select the script, one that best reflects their unique abilities. They can control the delivery of the script and the mood that they wish to evoke.
When I was introduced to this exercise, at first I couldn’t understand why there was a universal loathing of monologues among actors. Having rehearsed and performed a couple of them on stage, now I can see why no one loves monologues.
You may never have to perform a monologue on stage, but as an employee or entrepreneur there is much that you can learn and implement from them.
I have always detested the idea of an elevator speech. To have a speech prepared and ready to be delivered has always screamed inauthentic to me. The Corporate world can keep its elevator speech, while I shall present a succinct monologue of my thoughts to my clients and my readers!
How can you incorporate the power of Monologues into your life?
- Tell a story: You can reveal a lot about yourself and your dreams (and why you want that contract/job/book deal) in a minute. Just remember that stories are powerful and they leave indelible impressions. Construct your story well.
- Choose a monologue style that best fits you: There are any number of monologues and styles. Some people do well with an element of humor, while others can pull off drama. Remember to inject your monologue (or speech) with the feeling you want to convey. One lesson I learned was that I can rock a comedy!
- Be prepared: Don’t attempt a new style of speaking or a new way of introducing yourself to an important client or at an important meeting. The more often that you have rehearsed something, the easier it is to deliver it. I suggest writing a short introduction that you can save to your smartphone. Spontaneity can often be a detriment to self-confidence, especially in stressful situations.
- Mind your language: Body language can divulge a lot about your feelings and your thoughts. In addition to practicing your words, practice your movements. Adopt powerful postures to gain the attention of your audience.
The reason I enrolled in drama class was to channel my creativity, instead I learned about controlling the image I present to this world. I learned about polishing my craft for my audience, maintaining continuity and letting go of self-consciousness. I also learned about honing my speaking skills to give my best performance.
Most of all I learned that it doesn’t matter how much passion you carry within your heart. If you don’t share your magic in a way that moves people, they will never see your brilliance in its entirety.
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Harnessing your talent is critical to leading an authentic life! How will you push yourself to do audacious things if you are agitated by even the thought of how other’s perceive you? Stop trying to play small; it does not serve you or the world!
Implement my lessons from drama class today. Take control of your destiny. Be brave enough to let your light shine in front of your audience.
I have cherished the experience of participating in drama class and sharing these lessons with you.
Have you participated in drama before? What lessons did you learn from your experience? Which one of the lessons listed above resonates with you?