Pushed to the limit

A few months ago I got to be part of an AFI film about a lonely girl who finds friendship in the most unlikely of places… only to lose it again. It was wonderful working with such a professional crew and learning to express my pain and anger on cue.

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On that note, my acting teacher Robert D’Vanzo has really been pushing me by giving me roles I’ve never played before. Last week, I did a scene from The Break Up with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, where I play an extremely fed up wife who explodes on her husband. I had to really give it to him, and yell and challenge from my gut. This was difficult for me, given that I usually play the goofy flirt or bubbly best friend. The other scene I performed was from a one act play called The Gift Box, which is about two sisters who have a longstanding resentment between each other. I played the eldest sister, pregnant at 8 months, marrying a man who I didn’t love for so that I could feel secure and save face. The little sister oddly resembled someone close in my life – she never had money and was always asking me for it, while accusing me of never working a day in my life and just using men to get by. It was really wonderful to be so connected to my scene partner. We navigated the stormy waters of our relationship with fake smiles and fronts and little innuendos that exploded into word pistols meant to kill. It was the first time that my teacher actually gave me praise during class and I was voted most improved and best actor 🙂

Now to harness that for every class! I found that working on personalization, prior history, and transferring that onto my scene partner really helped.

Acting is so much more than merely performing and putting on a show – it’s about being connected to your character, to the other characters, understanding the human condition and living it. It’s really the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to try (besides scuba diving!).

Speaking of scuba diving, my friends and I got certified this past weekend! I think it’s important to do one thing that scares you every month-ish, and its important to live life and expand your horizons. I tend to scold myself whenever I’m not working, but as I’ve grown older I’ve found that life is best lived with balance. While acting and my career are of tantamount importance to me, so are new experiences, my family and friends.

Anyway, going back to the topic of scuba diving, it was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever tried. When I first started, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was breathing underwater. It not only felt foreign, it felt wrong. At one point, during the regulator retrieval skill test, I panicked and tried to race to the top because I couldn’t find my regulator. Thankfully, my instructor was a baus and gave me his regulator until I calmed down. After a lot of encouragement and reassurance, I was able to breath normally and slowly again.

Whether you succeed or fail in life is very much dependent on your attitude. When I chose to believe that scuba was scary, I panicked and doubted myself and felt like I couldn’t breath. However, when I chose to focus on the beautiful fish around me, the cool looking crab, the beautiful nature around me, I forgot that I was even breathing underwater and started to really enjoy the experience. Of course, there were still difficult moments. When ascending and waiting for your turn to exit the stairs, one has to endure the violent tossing and turning of waves and nausea, but I found a trick for that too – stick your head down into the water until you absolutely have to come up.

What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that deliberate practice is the most effective way to improve a skill. As defined in the book “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin, deliberate practice is practicing a skill that’s just outside your comfort zone but still within reach, until you master it, and repeating that process.

I challenge you to deliberately practice the thing you want to get better at!

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