This past weekend I did it. I made my nervous NY acting debut at ModFab's reading of "Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide" by Charles Ludlam , the pioneer of the 'theater of the ridiculous' movement. I played a triple role: one of the dancing Fire Woman of Mars, a newsboy, and the galactic demon "War" For the latter part I was supposed to get all shouty and rally my minions --think Mel Gibson in Braveheart or Gerard Butler in 300. So, yeah: total typecasting [snort] I was most convincing as the 'gee whiz' newsboy. This is because I only had two lines and all it required was channeling old movie "extra! extra!" type of vocal cadences. That I can do.
I am not an actor. I've been so certain of this for so long that I haven't even tried it since high school when I stank up the joint in exactly one play, a madcap comedy. I signed up for this reading on account of my friendship with the Modern & Fabulous one and because --once I stopped to really consider who I'd get to work with it -- I thought it might be good for me.
We had two days of rehearsals wherein we ran through the play about five times. My part(s) was very small but I was incredibly nervous. The professional actors and theater people all around me... if they had nerves it didn't show. The theater of the ridiculous allows you plenty of room for interpretation and covers for a lot of amateur hour silliness like mine thank god but my costars didn't need any covering up. I was quite impressed with them and, as a nonactor, fascinated by the diversity of approaches. Some of the actors seemed to be doing nothing for two or three run throughs and then suddenly, the full character emerged like an instant polaroid. Other actors started turned all the way up to 11 and chiseled it down as they went, as if they were sculptors. And some were like painters, you could see the picture they were creating all along but it just got less sketchy and more colorfully defined in each run through.
I write about acting all the time. I read about it. I watch tons of it. I understand a lot more than your average civilian about technique, acting theory, and whatnot. But I haven't really experienced working alongside them before. Now having done so, even if only in a tiny way, I am both alarmed and pleased to report that it is still a total mindblowing thing. This magical artform lost none of its mystery. I am even more in awe of those who can act. What a gift.