Act II on Acting

At the acting class yesterday, we had the Sensory Practice.


After the relaxation meditation, the instructor asked us to imagine an apple on our palm and interact with it. Probably because I love apple (and Apple with a capital A), and I just had two the day before, I was able to recall every detail about an apple. Enough to make my mouth water.

Then the instructor critiqued on everyone’s performance. Some need to relax and let go. Some hadn’t been specific enough. When it was my turn, he commented, “Intense concentration you had there. It brought out the vivid details and I saw it.”

I couldn’t believe it. I just received a phenomenal comment at an acting class for screenwriters.

Truth is, I feel like an underdog every day. Being the only Chinese in the screenwriting program makes me nauseated at times. Most locals have their previous chapter writing. Me? Next to nothing. But I don’t feel that ‘excluded’ anymore as I get along with my cohort. When the instructor made this comment about me, I suddenly felt a surge of confidence, which I hadn’t experienced for a long time.

Focus, concentration, whatever you call it, is a huge advantage for a writer. And now I am ‘certified’ to be pretty good at it — better than the locals. Such knowledge will help me to travel further, I think and I hope it will.

Some other things we discussed yesterday —

How to stage pain. Surprisingly, if you have actual pain somewhere over the body, don’t centralize your attention there. Move to elsewhere. Or it would jeopardize the moment as you create the feeling, because the pain would catch up with you and overtake your attention from staying in character.

How to stage hotness. Think about a particular spot that is hot. It can be armpit. It can be the tip of your lips. Because they are real, as you act upon it, it won’t look unreal.

When you want to be seen onstage as you find yourself in an awkward position having your back against the audience, you need to upstage your scene partner.

The last part of yesterday’s class was presenting another scene with a group of four people — two actors, one writer and one director.

This time I was the actor. When the four of us were onstage for critique after the performance, I noticed that nobody commented anything on my performance. The teacher merely said matter-of-factly that “You always know your goal onstage.” He asked everyone else on the team how they felt. But not me.

You see, I put hours of work on it. It is only natural that I wanted to hear something, anything. When they clapped and were ready to move on, I added how my own experience helped me in this role. This was the first and only time I felt compelled to say something. I just wasn’t confident or big enough to let it slide by. I felt the urge to be heard. But nobody seemed to notice or care. I panicked.

Whenever the acting class was over, I felt like I need to be alone. I just wanted to get out, fast. I felt like I could slap someone. I felt worthless, again. If that was my day as a wannabe actor, I couldn’t imagine what a real actor’s day was like before she “makes it.”

As I biked home, I was hot in the chest. I was even a bit angry. I felt I was giving thoughtful comments on everybody’s performance, but they almost never gave me anything. Why are you people so stingy with words when it comes to me? I felt like a Goddamned drama queen.

Then I snapped out of my own world — Acting really is hard. You want validation. You want to hear (good) things about your performances. You don’t want to hear criticism. Then when you get nothing, you want to hear anything, even criticism. You also feel you don’t have the right to give any critique. And yet, when someone gives constructive feedbacks, she earns my respect.

But please, please, give me something. Not the cold shoulder. Por favor.

A friend once said, “Well, it’s not always about you.”

Okay, fine.


Yours truly,

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