Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#336: Running, Acting, Living


This was an easy run. I just wanted to get my muscles working after Sunday's 8 miler. I find that after adequate rest, usually 48 hours, an easy workout is the most effective way to wring the soreness out. I started pretty early for me: around 7:00. I want to get used to running early now that the summer sun is getting more serious. It was nice and cool when I started. I'm guessing in the high 60s, but it was noticeably warmer by the time I was done. All three miles were within 3 seconds of 13 minutes, so that seems like a good training pace. Charlie says that I can measure my pace with my breathing: if I can't carry on a conversation, I'm going too fast. Since I run alone, my conversations aren't really dependent on my breath, so I use my strides instead. I try to breath once for every two strides. Each time my left foot touches, I either inhale or exhale. If I need to breath more than that, I slow down.Seems to be working so far. It keeps me from huffing and puffing.

Sir Laurence Olivier as Richard III.
Not a guy you'd want dating your sister.
I've started rehearsing Richard III with SummerFest. It's a play I love and know pretty well. There are several talented young actors in the cast, and as an increasingly grizzled veteran, I feel a special obligation to set a good example and offer guidance when it seems appropriate. I try not to come on like a know-it-all, that isn't my job. I'm also not trying to be a secret director. That's unethical. But I do know a little more about acting than I did when I was 17, and I learned a lot of that from the geezers who went ahead of me. I wouldn't say I'm a mentor, but I do try to sneak in a few jellybeans of wisdom in from time to time.

I was talking with one of the high schoolers in the cast about a scene we had just played. Richard had just finished manipulating and sending somebody or other to their death. It's sort of his specialty. "What a bastard he is," I said to my young scene partner. "Doesn't he just make your skin crawl?"

He seemed nonchalant. "I don't know. I just figure that's the way he always is. It doesn't really affect me."

"No," I said. "That's a mistake. Never dismiss what another actor is offering you. Always include it in. Our job as actors is to create reality, not to destroy it. Everyone on stage is either helping you to get what you want, or else keeping you from that objective. Let them change you."

He seemed worried. "Was I destroying the scene?"

"No," I reassured him. "I'm not talking about something you do. I'm talking about a way of thinking. Think in terms of what your character wants, what's actually on stage, and respond truthfully. If you do that, you will be helping to create."

Running is a lot like that. I find that having an objective really focuses me. On the days when I feel a little sore or tired, I just remember that there's a 10K race in 28 days. Even on the road, turning my mind's eye toward that goal helps me to press on. Climbing hills is easier when I remember how good it feels to reach the crest and coast down the other side. And setting a good pace and training schedule is only possible when I include what my body is really doing, as opposed to what I wish it could do. That lets me continue to grow without pushing myself to the point of injury.

The two things that kept me sane during my cancer treatment were patience and goals. I knew that I wanted to act again, and I knew that I was going to have to go through a lot of crap before I could do that. I embraced the goal, and accepted the crap. Who knew that acting class would one day help to save my life?

These were lessons from two of my best acting teachers: always make the positive choice, and always "include it in." Don't play in your imagination. Make choices that accept and add to whatever is really there. Make choices that take you down the road toward your goal. In doing this, the artist and the athlete imitate their Creator. We don't tear down, we build up.

I have a feeling that these lessons may apply to other parts of life as well, but I leave that judgment to my discerning readers.



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