Friday, February 11, 2011

Flexing Those Art Muscles

Barbara: As most of you know, I’m also an actor in my other life. Thing is, lately I’ve noticed that acting has been fading more and more from my consciousness. When my agent phoned yesterday with an audition, I actually gulped and admitted sheepishly that I’d “forgotten I was an actor”. Since acting is something I’ve spent so many years loving (even obsessively), I had to ask myself why this strange phenomenon was happening.

I’ve always known that acting is not something you can do on your own. It’s maybe the only art form to which this applies. You can write, paint, sing, play music, even dance completely on your own and without an audience, but acting by yourself is kinda against the point. The beauty of acting is that you’re playing off others, getting swept up with them, creating something in tandem with a writer, director, other actors, and an audience. Which made me realize, upon deep mullation, concerted mullitude (I love a good mull), that this fading grip on my love of acting probably has a lot to do with the fact that my acting muscles have gotten flabby. Even though I had a good working year, there is nothing like doing something of your art every day, or every few days, certainly at least once a week.

Here’s the rub: art muscles DO get flabby, or they never get toned in the first place. We seem to have this overriding belief that one is born with talent and that’s the end of it. And while I do believe that talent is a wonderful component of art, it is nothing without practice, practice, practice. And with every practice session, that talent becomes more and more innate, more accessible, more fluid, more MUSCULAR.

So it’s no wonder that acting is receding out of my consciousness like a waning tide leaving sea-bottom detritus in its wake. That detritus makes me think I’m an actor, but it also mocks me, reminding me that there should be abundant water here, but there really ISN’T. Nothing to swim in, nothing to bob in, nothing to tread.

I hope I don’t sound bitter—because I promise I am not. This is merely a result of my mullingations. And this is what I think I need to add: for those of you compelled to act, I suggest you find a group of like-minded folk and do it together on a regular basis. And for those of you compelled to write, dance, paint, photograph, sing, draw—Just Do It. If you don’t, there might not be any muscle left to flex, or worse, no desire to flex at all.

Deb: Oh my goodness I hear you, Barb. Weirdly my dilemma is similar and yet different. I have probably had the busiest of my acting years since I turned 50. I am flexing and using those muscles and yet ... bla. I joke all the time now that I HATE THE ACTING. Bored with it really. Someone famous said that she loves it between the words “action and cut” and I get that. But really for me, the bloom is off the rose. I much prefer being the human me to the actor me. I have grown to hate the early rising, the poking and prodding by hair and makeup, the little “actor cells” we reside in, the waiting around, the wardrobe fittings, the technical aspect of it, and frankly the doing of it. Of course when it’s really cooking and the scene is over, I feel proud and sometimes pumped, it’s true. But the rest, oy, am I over it. If you had told me this 30 years ago, I would have been aghast. I was so ambitious.

I do love the stage, though, if it is shared with the perfect people and material. It is immediate, rewarding, fun, and there is a true sense of control and a glorious connection with the audience. But I hate the sound checks and the backstage waiting and doing the same damn thing over and over again.

Are we sensing a pattern here? I feel sick about this because I sound so damn ungrateful. And I’m not. I just wish I had the dough to write and travel and be with the people I love.

Man, I guess I needed to get this off my chest. My hands just flew over the keys. I could be doing some horribly shit job and yet I am lucky enough to be in a creative field. Haven’t really figured this one out yet. It still shocks me every time I say, “I HATE THE ACTING”. I guess that, just as we are different people at different times in our lives, it would stand to reason that we crave different things at different times, huh? Of course, this may just be a phase, but if it is, it’s a hell of a long one. 


  1. Such a creative post from both of you. Barb, did you accept the audition? I can see how acting could be so exhausting. I paint and write and it is the right balance. I have a teacher twice a month at my home studio so it is easy. We talk, eat and paint. I rarely do it by myself anymore.

  2. I don't act at all. I could never get up in front of that many people.EVER. But I do get what you mean. I did drama for nine years when I was in school and loved it but stil there is no way I coluld ever act. I think sometimes we just do something for so long that when it gets old,it's just there. I don't know if this sounds weird but one of the things that I love to do is cook. So I guess maby it kind of relates to this but I'm not sure because if you don't do it for a long time and don't use those muscles than they can go away very fast.

    I am also like that with writing as well. If I don't do write for a long time than when I do write I feel like I am being forced so I better keep my writing muscles going,because if I don't it will go straight out the window and never come back.

  3. When I was young, I wanted to act so bad, but those blasted teacher in charge of grade school performances alway cast me as the damn ADULT because I was tall. I never got to be a STAR (meaning Gretel--I was somehow in Hansel and Gretel twice)... and then I got busy and tangled up in other activities, so by high school, I never got back to it. I think I have the wrong personality now... didn't ever hone those muscles!

    The writing though, I do... I'm good on my discipline there... I can't see it losing its charm because I feel like I keep edging up a level (or a part of a level, or maybe just a baby step)--I think it is when our ability to keep growing stops that we get bored. Or I do anyway.

    I am all for Deb's plan where we have enough dough to write, travel and spend time with loved ones. Sign me up for that.

  4. Actually, Madge, I had to give the audition up because I was traveling for those days (I should have booked out with my agent and forgot to do so --something I would usually never do, hence my realization that I'd forgotten I was an actor). And I love the idea of having a teacher in there a few times a month to get you going. That is inspired.

    Lyndsie, your comment reminds of that notion that if we stop drawing, our ability stops at that age (ie, broccoli trees or stick figures *raises hand*)

    Hart, I was the same. Tall = adult roles and not leads. Still I loved playing the character roles in university, so it was not a terrible ordeal.

  5. Mullingations is the best word I've heard this year. You should give up the acting and compile Deb and Barbara's Dictionary of Mullingations. I'd buy it. Well, I'd mullulate on it.

  6. It does seem like no matter what our passion is, when we HAVE TO do it, i.e. when it becomes a job, or work, then a lot of the pleasure we took in it goes down the drain. Or maybe no matter how much we love our work, there will be times when it gets in the way of our living. Darn it.

  7. MJ, thanks, but I think you win with mullulations. Gauntlet thrown.

    Katie, absolutely.


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