As I sit waiting to meet one of my professors from college for dinner, I am reminded of a particular exercise I had to participate in for his class. It was called a Grotowski circle. Basically each person takes turns jumping in the circle until you create some kind of crazy repetitive motion and sound that matches the energy you worked with when entering the circle. Once you are confident in this motion and sound, you move to someone in the circle, stand in front of them until they are mirroring you perfectly, and then you switch places and it morphs again.
In this particular round one of my friends was doing some kind of super sexual motion while breathlessly screaming “OHHH YEAHHH.” I stupidly made eye contact with her, which she stupidly accepted as an invitation. So…here she was grinding with an invisible person right in front of me.
I looked around the room, pleading for help with my eyes. My professor shook his head and just said “Nope, you have to.” So I did.
I was mortified.
But I didn’t die.
I mentioned several blog posts ago that I would be writing about vulnerability, and for some reason that’s been a very hard topic for me to tackle. I want to stay true to my word, but who am I to say how or when or to whom someone should make themselves vulnerable? I’m a person with baggage and scars just like everyone else. I’m clearly no expert on the topic…but I do know it’s essential to being a good actor. I do know that the more fears I have, the more excuses I’ll have to say no to opportunities. If you love something more than you love fear, the only thing you can do is tackle fear.
Since I’ve been struggling to find a way to start on this topic, I figured I’d use this post to dip my feet in, if you will. Rather then spewing out some wise words of wisdom on the subject when I’m not quite comfortable articulating it yet, I figured I’d start by naming just a few times of vulnerability that changed my life. There are all different types of vulnerability, and each person has their own stories; these are just a few of mine.
One time I was really drunk and got up to sing Karaoke even though one of my biggest fears is public singing. I don’t remember much of that night….but evidently I did not die.
Most of us have a similar story - One time a boy broke my heart so badly I shut myself up for a long time, but I didn’t die. In retrospect, it just spoke to how strongly I was in love. But let me repeat: when it ended, I didn’t die.
When I was in a show that required full-nudity I spent the first few performances incredibly uncomfortable with my body in my environment. After I realized I wasn’t going to die, I began to realize the person who was focusing the most on the nudity was me, and I was surprised to learn that most people proved to be incredibly mature audience members with a respect for the narrative rather than the nakedness.
When I first realized that I had been feeling much sadder than I should I called my mom sobbing. It was the first time I sincerely opened up and articulated my feelings, and during the time I went to counseling I had nightmares every night because of how emotionally vulnerable I felt. But I didn’t die.
One time in a dance recital I had to wear a full-body tootsie roll costume and dance around like a fool. To help disguise myself, I painted my whole face brown (no, not a minstrel show). With my new disguise I went out and danced my little heart out, mortified the entire time. But I did not die.
After class that day in college I went up to my professor and asked him if we could continue working on Grotowski circles. He seemed surprised and asked me why.
“It looked like you hated every second.”
“I was terrified the whole time. That’s why we have to keep doing it.”
I got massive brownie points that day, but more importantly, I dared to fail gloriously. I learned to say yes to being vulnerable. You can never unlearn that.
One of my favorite quotes of all time by the classic starlet Lucille Ball – “I’m not funny, what I am is brave.”
Be so brave you're vulnerable.