Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Journalling about my career change

I was at a Quaker retreat a year ago.  They asked us to draw pictures.  That seems to be a common activity at Quaker workshops.  I don’t remember what the topic was.  I do remember what I drew.

I drew a picture of me in church, fuming, because I had to listen to a preacher, whose preachings I found insipid, annoying, lacking profundity.  This was one of my motivations for becoming a Quaker — to get onto the other side of the pulpit — to become one of the ministers — and all Friends are ministers.

Below the picture of me in church, I drew a picture of me, looking at my computer screen, fuming, because I had to watch material, much of which I found annoying for some of the same reasons — but also some other reasons.  This was one of my motivations for getting into acting and performing.  I wanted to get on the other side of the screen.

There were other reasons as well.  I love performing.  I feel it comes naturally to me. 

Yet, as I try to get into the entertainment industry, I find myself continuing to dislike the very things that drew me to want to change it.

I have been studying improv comedy for two and a half years.  I love improvising.  I love getting on stage and making things up.  So far, tho, they haven’t let me into conservatory level courses at the my school. 

I was just at the theater run by my school last night, watching a show, by one of my preferred groups.  The show was raunchy.  That seems to be the norm.

I don’t like raunchy.  I am not laughing.  I respect the talent of the people on stage.  They’re bouncy, energetic, working well together.  They’re great singers.  They are nice people off stage.  I really want to be their friend.  But I didn’t like the show.

I also don’t like the widespread use of profanity in improv.  I don’t like profanity. 

I’m taking an acting course at an acting studio.  We’re working on a classic play called “All My Sons,” by Arthur Miller.  It’s a great play.  But my character has to use some profanity.  I don’t like it. 

I get e-mails offering me courses with casting directors who are casting for TV shows that I’ve never watched.  I’m not a TV watcher.  I went completely cold turkey off video in college, because it seemed like a dangerous, addictive drug to me.  I was only recently drawn back into video, because of my computer — the lure of YouTube videos, videos that are shorter, geared to my interests by an artificial intelligence algorithm. 

TV still doesn’t lure me, tho. I would rather be creating content than consuming it, so it’s hard for me to get motivated to go to casting directors who are casting for things that I know little about and probably wouldn’t enjoy.

I’m drawn to sci-fi fantasy villains.  I like the idea of scaring people.  Probably that’s because I’m a timid person.  I don’t feel badly about being a villain, because usually the villain gets killed.  It’s just a role.

I auditioned for a horror musical recently.  The director saw on my resume that I’m religious, so he wondered if I would fit into horror.  I’m drawn to scaring people, so I’m drawn to horror. I told him that I thought that horror is often very moralistic — often more so than other genres — and draws conclusions that are very basic ethically.  There was no moral conclusion to the musical improv comedy show I saw last night at all.

Still, I was most drawn to Dark Shadows as a child, because Barnabas wanted to reform.  That’s part of what I really liked about Star Wars, Darth Vader was redeemed at the end.  Redemption is a theme that I like, much more so than killing the victim.  Tho I don’t consider myself a traditional Christian, I was impressed with the Christian idea that we are trying to save people spiritually, to get them to repent and reform rather than just punishing them.

I also liked Star Trek, as a kid, partly because Captain Kirk always regretted having to kill sentient aliens.  He did not take pleasure in it.  He wanted to avoid it.

I like to watch movies based on comic books.  There’s little or no profanity there.  There are scary villains that I would like to play, but they don’t have to swear.  Also, I like watching sexy men in tights, if it’s only slightly suggestive, and not raunchy.

One of the things that drew me to Quakers was the historical testimony of plainness.  Historical Quakers felt that spending time decorating themselves was wasteful, that that time and energy should be spent helping the poor.  For me, it’s a bit different.  I don’t like the feeling that women have to spend huge amounts of time and energy decorating themselves, because they feel insecure about themselves, particularly with respect to men.  Also, I feel that society generally compensates women less than men and women are expected to spend scarce resources on their appearances.

I got into a big debate on Facebook recently about Bruce Jenner’s transition, where I was disturbed that he felt comfortable with his natural appearance  while being interviewed by Sawyer so long as that was identified as “male,” but identifying as “female” and becoming “she,” involved wearing makeup, hyper-sexualized clothing and styled hair — a male fantasy of what a woman is — not the natural appearance of a person in the process of transitioning from male to female, with mixed features and body attributes.

The person who got most upset about my post was a successful actress, who does buy into the whole makeup, clothing, hair thing.  She felt threatened, apparently, by my opinion that Jenner’s way of defining female involved all this beauty enhancement stuff. 

The first transgender people I met were Quakers.  They, like me, were not so into the commercialization of female beauty and tended to be fairly plain.  They made me curious.  I tend to be drawn to gay and transgender men.  I wanted to know more about them.

Jenner is different.  Women in his life as a straight man included the Kardashians.  Jenner buys into that view of women. I’m still curious about Jenner, as most everyone seems to be, but I don’t like the way Jenner defines female.

But this brings me back to my friend who is a successful actress, who is not into “plain” the way I am.  In some sense, she represents my fears about what I would have to become to be successful as a performer. 

I’m not going into this to become like everyone else.  I don’t want to have to do roles that include profanity.  I don’t want to have to buy into this definition of female that includes spending huge amounts of time and energy on commercial beauty products and fashion.

Still I find myself buying some pretty clothes — drawn to them.  I used to like to wear grey and black a lot .  I don’t like it so much any more.

Part of this is my realization that grey and black clothing is still dyed.  Dyes are applied in toxic processes.  The whole dying industry has been mostly moved outside the USA, because modern commercial dying cannot be accomplished in compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations.  We’ve shipped the toxicity to the third world.

Jonathan Woolman, a historical Quaker, insisted on wearing undyed cloth, because even then toxicity was a huge issue for workers.  I have a few pieces of clothing that are made of undyed cloth.  They show stains very badly.  They’re ecru in color.  They don’t feel practical because of the way they show stains.

So I’m wearing dyed cloth and feeling schizo about it.

I feel like I’m on a slippery slope.  I’m practicing a role where I have to use some profanity.  I’m wearing some dyed clothing.  I’m anxious not to alienate a successful professional actress who is happy with her makeup and hair styling. 

I don’t want to become what I hate in order to succeed.  I don’t like the influence some people have on me. 

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.  I feel like I have moral concerns that no one else shares, a Don Quixote of sorts. 

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