Among my performing (actor) friends, we often talk about “going to a new level” in reference to achieving new depth and dimensionality in our work or in a particular character. In my case, going to a new level never feels higher; and, in fact, always meansthat yet another trap door has appeared from nowhere underneath me and dropped me into a new scary, dark place.
I never am ready for it since, like everyone else who goes to a new level, I never see it coming. The most I can say is (perhaps) my night vision has improved over time and instead of panicking when I fall, instead, I instinctively try to find my way in the new abyss.
Yesterday I shot primary scenes of my PASSAGES, A MYTH protagonist, Sum’o, King of the Gods. Sum’o is an ascetic seeking enlightenment. He does not speak. Not only that, he customarily wears a mask to help him maintain a state of contemplation and prayer. He communicates with his two sisters psychically – in other words, because this is a movie and the audience cannot read his mind like his sisters can, he uses formalized, specific hand and arm movements to indicate his thoughts and intent in his interactions with them.
PASSAGES is being shot in front of greenscreen. The gods are mostly invisible and their costumes are also partly green. While, I prepared to shoot a few different camera angles and then set both cameras on “record” and perform live the improvisations that I have been planning for months, I felt jittery and anxious for. This was not continuity anxiety, since the tech of PASSAGES is straightforward and uncomplicated. No, I finally realized, this was anxiety that I had had for several days. This was stage fright.
In 17 straight years of performing on stage, usually in solo plays in which I played all the characters, I rarely had stage fright. I have even fallen asleep backstage while waiting for my cue.
I am pretty sure that it is when I have stage fright that I am most likely to fall through a trap door. Fortunately for my pursuit of acting I always forget this fact until right before or after the next time it occurs.
I can only relate this story. I cannot describe the joy I felt yesterday evening after having learned that an actor who makes one-man movies in her kitchen can fall through a trap door in front of her own cameras.
Being an artist is not a thankless job.