A few weeks ago I received an email that was a bit of a surprise- it was an invitation from my Drama School to be on a panel and talk about my journey as an actor so far. I graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts – excited, hopeful and naive about this business. Surprisingly when I hit reality- I didn’t turn back. 😉
In the time I had before the panel, so many thoughts and memories were flickering in my brain… like scenes in a film- with so many characters and faces from the past.
I looked over my old report cards, giggled over old photographs of friends, read my many journals of “character observations”- it turns out there were many interesting (definitely embellished) characters on the streets of Pasadena. Which made me think- if I could sum up what what AADA taught me that has aided me through my career so far- I believe it is this: Imagination is my most powerful tool- and my greatest friend.
I made my way to San Francisco and despite the plentiful olfactory offerings that Market Street had to offer, I found the meeting place and met up with Chip Killingsworth, who is the Director of Student Recruitment, and he filled me in on the night. I also met Jaime Moon, who is the Executive Director of the The Sonoma Theater Alliance and a graduate of the New York campus. I was especially excited to see Theresa Hayes, Director of Instruction. Theresa was my Movement teacher, and one of my favorites. It was so wonderful to see her- and now she is Director of Instruction! I think that is the coolest thing ever.
About 30 students and their parents arrived, and Chip went through the whole story of auditioning and getting references and all the prep work you need to do to really be ready for this adventure. As I sat and listened and nodded my head in agreement with everything he talked about: the classes in First Year and what you learn, what the teachers look for- that it’s a lot of hard, serious work. I was actually in awe of myself that I did all that! Then there’s the wait to find out if you’ve been invited back for Second Year…. brought back so many butterflies of those days. I remember being so serious about dialect class that I would start studying right after school, take a break for Animaniacs …
and then lock myself away again.
It was the first time I did well in all my classes- I was excited to study and learn about so many amazing techniques and styles- we had Make Up class and Cold Reading, Musical Theater and Fencing. I remembered in times of frustration or fear that I would stop myself for a moment and be thankful that I was there. Thankful for my parent’s support of me being there. I felt very lucky.
As the students sat and listened, I could see how they felt- I know how it felt. To be 17, 18 years old and have this possibility in front of you is really exciting, and a big investment in so many ways. It is a career with no for sures, but when you want this for your life, nothing else will do.
Imagination took me there all those years ago, and imagination takes me where I need to be today too. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t free my mind! To be a squirrel, or a Pirate Hunter, a zombie killer or an 8 year old boy- I don’t know what I would do without my imagination.
Acting is being. It’s letting yourself go there. No choice is wrong; you just say yes. Easy! 😉
I was reminded again on Saturday night how inspired I was then- that naivety of “I don’t care if I get paid, I just want to act!”
Wow. Did I really say that??
Love for our art is what keeps us going in the lean times- that being said, getting paid is a very good thing!
I am thankful to The American Academy for asking me to be a part of the panel- it felt good to be recognized and to share what I do. As I went through the phases of my career since school it made me really excited about how far I have come, and how far I can go- that is my inspiration now.
I’ll let my imagination take the lead.