My daughter is my reason for living
reveals a typical dorm room set as it illuminates. Backstage, Julian raps on the door. When opening it, his scene partner finds him in a pose that looked amusing, interesting, and charming on the other actors. Julian, however, is all tension and outlined options. Julian makes a show of slurring his words as he awkwardly enters the stage, because all drunk people fall over and mumble, right? He makes an extra effort to demonstrate to me that he completed his homework. He is actually clenching his fists in an effort to fake anger. He could just as well be performing in silence. He hasn’t paid any attention to or honestly responded to anything his scene partner has said, despite occasionally looking in her direction. With exacting emphasis and no thought or connection to the situation, he is giving carefully prepared, canned line readings. And a little part of me dies.
Julian is not the typical actor who lives for himself. A ham, Julian is not. Julian is modest, committed, and sincere. When he is in the classroom, he is consistently fully engaged and listens both with his head and his heart. He goes above and above to show kindness and assistance. He is as eager to encourage a fellow student as he is to assist in moving a cumbersome set piece or solving a sound issue. However, Julian is a poor actor right now on stage, and my heart aches for him. I give him honest criticism in the most sympathetic way I can, and he is appalled. The issue is that he put so much effort into his preparation and has such a strong desire for success that he is unable to comprehend why he is failing. Acting has no inherent right. A wide variety of descriptive adjectives can be used to describe acting, including precise, knowledgeable, emotionally resonant, transcendent, moving, and evocative. But you can’t always get it right. This lovely alchemical union of the technical and the organic is great acting.