An Actor's Lament by James Dawson

“Passion” I say audibly, as I swirl around boxed wine in a fancy glass before gulping it down, “I hardly know her.” I chuckle softly at my own genius — because if I don’t, who will? I then sit quietly as thoughts bounce around in my head like thoughts in a head before desperately crying “HOW DO I DO THIS!” as I toss my arms in the air with a flourish of exasperation. 

Ah, the writer’s lament. Of course, I’m not a writer in the classic sense of the word, so this isn’t something I find myself concerned with too often. However, as I feebly attempt this virtual dipping of the pen, I now understand the anguish that writers undergo. So, let me be the first to say — writers, thank you for your service. But enough about writing because I’m not being paid to talk about that, (in fact I’m not being paid at all, so if you feel at all inclined, my Venmo is @handicaphustler) I’m here to talk to you all about ACTING.

You see, I myself am an Actor®. No, I am not as well known as some of the great ones like Vin Diesel, although I certainly aspire to get there one day. Instead, I am just a recently out of college acting major who was fortunate enough to gain an apprenticeship at Actors Theatre of Louisville while the world burns all around us and a pandemic swirls in the air. I take another massive swig of wine, this time straight from the box. Anyway, acting is something I’ve done for a couple of years, and I’ve discovered I’m quite fond of it. Simply put, I act because I like doing it and it’s pretty easy — you just say the words you’re supposed to and then leave. Sure, there might be a tad bit more to it, but that’s the gist.

Let’s start by talking about the pretentious nature of acting and actors in general. It’s undeniable, I *as an actor* would know such things. I will do so by pretending to answer questions that no one is actually asking. During the writing of this portion, I finished [content was censored by the editor] 

-Yes, of course people want to see me do my impressions at any public function.

-No, I don’t believe I’m butting in where the subject is none of my business.

-Yes, I love to break out in song and every time I do, I expect the people around to join in by harmonizing with me; however, if they actually do, I get upset because they’re   stealing my limelight.

-Yes, I am part of many cliques and I use each one to complain about the other groups.

-Of course, I tell people compliments only to get one in return.

-No, I don’t actually want to hear your constructive feedback even though I asked for it; just tell me I was perfect dammit.

Now that we’re done with that, I’ll transition to some other aspect.  

Acting allows you to bring stories to life, not in the same ways a director does, but in a more isolated and specific way. Some stories are really stupid, in either a purposeful, funny way or in an accidental, but still equally funny way. Some stories are really important, and you play an instrumental part in showing something that needs to be seen. Both versions are enjoyable and rewarding in their own respectful ways. 

It’s a cool thing when you think about all that acting encompasses. You sit in the dark only being illuminated by the faint glow tape that marks a few pathways so people don’t trip. Waiting with a familiar feeling of nerves and adrenaline as you know you can either give a great performance or, at the same time, ruin the show singlehandedly. You’re trying to not think about it but, that’s kind of hard considering you hear the whispered voices and soft footsteps of some production crew members making sure props and cast are in place and ready to go. You keep hearing talking and creaking emanate from the lighted area that is faintly slipping through some of the tiny cracks in the set. You wait to hear that cue as you run a quadruple check in your mind to make sure you have every costume piece on and every hand prop you need for the moment that is coming both way too fast and way too slowly. You start moving to the spot you’ll enter from, making your way past one cast member who you can tell is mumbling a few soundless words to themselves, as they do every night, and past another who is pacing back and forth in a way that is frantic and calm at the same time. Finally getting to your spot in the wings, you take a deep breath, close your eyes, rub your clammy hands together, and a phrase appears on your lips while a smirk comes across your face: “It’s showtime, baby.” You step into a cacophony of hot lights and all of a sudden you’re bringing a character to life that has never existed before and won’t ever exist again. Sure, other people may have played the role previously and others may play it afterwards, but it’s different each time. Everyone brings their own flavor, their own ideas, and their own sense of how the character carries themself. It’s all unique, even though the words are going to stay the same. This your opportunity to let it live, right before it dies.

Words that convey strong emotions are strange because everyone has a different feeling within themselves that they attach to those letters in the alphabet. A word can mean something completely different to me than it does to you. So, when I’m supposed to talk about passion, I truthfully don’t know if I’d say I’m passionate about anything. However, if I had to pick something I do that’s closest to that feeling inside, it’s acting and performing. Who knows, maybe when you see me on stage or screen one day, I can make you feel some strong emotion that you attach to a word in your mind. Until then, I leave you with this.  

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