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People, by nature, have some interesting things to say. Here are some of my things. Some about acting. All about living ...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Eulogy (II) ...

OK, so let's talk about this.

But first, we need to got to two weeks ago:

"Oh, and I hate hate hate next week's class. Hate it."
I try not use "hate" that much. And "next week's class" was delayed from last week to this week, due to the ice storm.

All caught up?

The reason I hated it more than usual (I think I often hate Meisner class, until I get there), is how it was teed up:

"Next week, you will all do a eulogy. Imagine the person who means the most
in the world to you. Now imagine them dead. Got it?"
The elaboration was I was supposed to take someone I care about who's perfectly healthy (that's key), and imagine a scenario where they could have believably died (but are not likely to in the real world), and believe it. Prepare for the eulogy however I would in real life. Create a scenario for who the classmates in the room are. Buy into that.

Then deliver the eulogy.

"This is the work. This is the cost."
I'd been putting it off for last week, and was just about to start it when class was delayed (with the instructions, "Don't over prepare for this -- try to peak emotionally next class"). I was seriously relieved. "Don't over prepare"?!

This is a big freaking deal. What if the floodgates opened and I couldn't stop? What if I didn't react the way I should talking about the death of a loved one? What does that say for my acting, or my love for that person?

Monday night, I started to write out the words of the eulogy. The good stuff, the funny stuff. Tuesday night, I thought in detail about the circumstances of the death. Very mechanical.

"Know what that was like. What it felt like. What the smells were. Believe
Wednesday morning, I wrote some more things. I wouldn't normally write, I don't think. But I also made sure not to type. Scrawled it out in my deteriorating handwriting.

Wednesday night, I started the drive down to the school. I started talking out loud about the death.

I was so overwhelmed I had to stop 10 seconds in or I knew I wasn't going to make it to class. Knot in the throat so hard I thought I was going to choke. Tears flooding dry eyes to that point where vision was blurry and I couldn't see straight.

I filled the drive with gingerly poking at parts of the eulogy (from memory, not looking at what I wrote down), and the details of the death.

I mean "poking", too.

Imagine sitting in a room. The only light comes from a candle. There are no windows but there is a door. Stretched across the door is a giant translucent balloon, and it's the only thing keeping the sea out. Fascinated, you walk over and poke it every once in a while, stopping when the skin gets stretched and looks like its going to leak, spread, and burst, and you run across the room cowering over your candle. Not that that's rationale. Then you do it again.

Rationale doesn't really fit in here.

I would start down a path and feel emotion welling and I'd run back and look at it across the room.

Um, anyway, that was the drive there.

I get to class, and there's a brief talk about some other stuff, some fun at my expense (I'm good with that).

Then, eulogies.

This is eleven people putting themselves in a place where they're talking about losing the most important person in the world. Why that person was important. What was good. How they died (sometimes).

So painful, so important.

When it was my turn, I lost it to the point where I almost couldn't start -- and probably had at least three false ones.

And I believed it. The death, what happened leading up. What I was doing certain nights. The ache. My class staging an intervention. The smells. They survivor's guilt.

And we get done and break.

"Go call people. That's the difference between Meisner and Strasburg. With
Meisner you get to go call the person afterwards."
I know this sounds weird if you're not in the acting world. But it's not freaky weird. It's not Strasburg. Not Method. Not destructive or marginalizing.

"Living truthfully under imaginary circumstances."
It's about building an "emotional Rolodex" so that I can roll that authentic emotion onto scenes I have to do.

It is freaking tough, though.

More talking about practice for this week and what next week will look like. Some stuff down the road with which I will have a problem. Some laughing, some joking.

Then the payout.
"I hate to do this to you guys, but stand up. Close your eyes. Everyone say, 'I
love you' -- say the person's name -- 'and I'm going to miss you.'"
We do, and eleven people are instantly back in the emotion of their eulogy. Laughing one minute, then totally connected and broken the next.

He made his point.

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