Hello from the other side of the new year, Acting Manitou community! As we say goodbye to 2016, a lot of us are welcoming changes – waving farewell to finished shows and semesters and turning to face new opportunities and challenges. I recently got the unique chance to “level up” in a particularly exciting way…I call it “Helena Take 2”.
My CIT year at Manitou (2014 session 1), I played Helena in Michael Kevin Baldwin’s outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the 1960s – complete with lip-syncing and dance battles. It was one of my first and only times in a Shakespeare show, since most of my training has been more contemporary, and to be honest, I was terrified. But it ended up being one of the most rewarding processes of my life, full of obstacles and learning opportunities. As often happens with such incredible shows and casts, I fell in love with the play (despite my fear of Shakespeare) and my character.
At the end of 2016, I was in my first main stage Vassar production – and guess what it was! A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And guess who I played! Helena. So here we have it – “Helena Take 2”. When I first got the news, I was obviously thrilled – but I was also nervous. I wanted this show to teach me; I wanted to get hit with new information and new challenges and new styles so that I could get the most out of my education as a drama major. So I made a choice. And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, the moral of this didactic blog post… (drum roll please…) I followed the Acting Manitou way, and I decided to fall in love with my play all over again. “I need to play this character again” turned into “I get to play this character again!” and suddenly worlds of opportunity opened up. How often do you get to the end of a show, finally having understood your character’s circumstances and motives, and then said goodbye to them and never gotten to live them again? This time, I already had all my background work – my “translated” lines, my character study, etc. – and I got to focus on exploration. “How do I make this work” turned into “why do I make this work” and “what if I didn’t want it to work” or “what if I did it while lying on the floor?” The different direction and vision for the show forced me to adapt and throw what I knew on its head, and that allowed me to get out of my rut and find new meaning in the lines every time I said them.
Underneath all this excited babbling, there are a few challenges. I challenge you to take something you thought you knew and turn it upside down. I challenge you to look at a cast list that caused you some initial disappointment and transform it into an opportunity to learn and grow. And most of all, I challenge you to do your best to love whatever it is that you’re doing. Go show 2017 who’s boss.