Learning to Start Over (Again)

I have done a lot of theater. I have acted in four shows and directed two more in my time at Groton alone. And yet, here I am, starting rehearsals for the fall show Twelfth Night feeling like I have forgotten entirely how to act.

I know what it is supposed to feel like to be comfortable in your character and act as they would act, and nothing of what I am doing in rehearsals is that. I feel like I am tripping over the words and just making gestures because I know that you aren’t supposed to be still when you act, emphasizing words because I know you aren’t supposed to be monotone, and moving my feet because I know you aren’t supposed to fix your feet on stage. It’s all just going through the motions.

And I know that it just takes time to get comfortable with your character, that it is the first week and nobody expects anything in the first week, and that nobody else on stage is Laurence Olivier yet, either, but it is still a frustrating feeling.

But I’ve done it before. This is what starting over feels like. Starting a new show is the same as hitting File > New in Word, buying a blank canvas, or picking up a new instrument. Maybe you’ve done something like this before, but you still have to start over from scratch.

Acting isn’t like riding a bike; you can forget how to do it. But that’s ok, because if you never had to do it over again you would never get any better at it. You have to shake the Etch-a-Sketch before you can draw with it.