My life is series of bad B-movies. At least that’s what my first acting teacher told me. I’ll never forget those first six weeks at William Esper Studio, my first real go at acting after years of odd IT jobs. Deb always seemed so vexed by me which I couldn’t help but internalize; it consumed me night and day, from the inside out, just trying to figure out what I could be doing that was pissing her off so bad. A friend once tried to console me by saying that when an acting teacher is extra hard on you it’s because they think you have real potential. No, I’m pretty sure this was one of those times that that adage wasn’t true, at all. Yes, this was one of those times when an acting teacher goes rogue after taking a great dislike to a trainee and whose utter disdain is projected all over the student on stage like yesterday’s chop suey (white container, chopsticks and all).
This was all part of the training, I thought, to really see how much of my pride I could actually swallow, and for how long. Right – well, if that was the case, then I’d show her – just how patient I can be, how much shit I can take in each sitting and how calm and non-reactive I can be in the face of great adversity. Because well, I guess that’s what it takes to be an actor? Who knew? Certainly not me, and especially not then. From time to time, I tried not to look so helpless on stage by contending that what I was bringing to class as my Meisner activity was actually a truthful piece, but every time I’d make an attempt to defend my work, she’d deride me even harder for being fanciful and lifting stories out of Law & Order. 90% of the time she wouldn’t let me get a word in and the other 10% she made me pay for, dearly.
“I don’t even watch TV!” was my retort one day to another seemingly endless diatribe. “Well then, your life is just a series of really bad B-movies.” My bell was rung. Deafness set it. It wasn’t that I was being berated in front of the class (again), it was more that her hatred for me was just so evidently seething followed by the ultimate realization that the pain she was inflicting on me was entirely intentional and calculated. I felt myself seize up; I clamped down on my tongue, tears of rage welled up in esophagus, choking me blind. I walked out of the studio that day in a daze. I just completed week four of the 6-week summer intensive and I was done in with an unofficial actor’s TKO.
At that point, I just knew that there was no way I was going to convince her that I was an actor worth her time so I just let her have it over email – if nothing else, just so that I could put myself to sleep with an ounce of dignity that night.
I don’t think I should have to apologize for having a very complicated life. These are actual pages out of my life and I thought they would be interesting to play out in class. When you debase my life circumstances and relegate them to “an episode of Law & Order,” not only do I find that presumptuous, it’s actually offensive. I’d prefer that you ask me first what goes on in my life before making statements like that in front of everyone. Besides, I’ve never seen a single episode of law and order – my ex loved that show and I couldn’t fucking stand to watch 5 minutes of it. And I gave up TV over 10 years ago – it rots your brain. I’m not trying to be confrontational – I’m just not one to sit back and let people shit on me for no reason. I can take all the other criticism you throw at me. Trust me. I have thick skin.
In my exit interview, I apologized for the knee-jerk message for the third time and admitted that I have an ego, to which she said, “Yes, you do! But that can be worked on.” I went on to say that it’s a pain point for me and that I was actively working on that part of myself and that I would be ever more humbled if she would take me as her student for the coming year. She said she’d have to give it some thought and get back to me. She never did.
The following year with Terry at William Esper was profoundly formative and a whole other bag of personal challenges…
I guess I’m telling this story of my not-so-humble beginnings as an actor-in-training because I know in my heart that I’ve come a long way as an artist since I started on my actors journey two years ago; I’m so much better than I was then, as a person. But at the core of it all, I’m still afraid – afraid of what will be left for me out there without a family in my life, afraid that I’ll forever be stuck in a really bad B movie. I was meant to do much more that what I’m able to reach for on my own, and I’m coming to grips with that now.