Actors get a bad rep from unknowing yokels and locals that assume the ignorant inevitable: “You’re an actor, you must be a good liar.”
As an understanding human and ever-learning actor, I get it. I can make the connection. To act is to pretend. If you were to boil down an imaginary circumstance you could very well call actors liars … on a base, simple, one dimensional level. What the offender is forgetting, or hasn’t had the chance to learn yet, is that a trained actor has the emotional tools necessary for authentically experiencing the given circumstance through the vessel of their character in the play. Mumble grumble artistic jargon blah.
I’ll help you learn from my really gay example.
This spring, I was given the wonderful opportunity to play Serafina Delle Rose in Ohio University’s production of Tennesee Williams’ lesser known “The Rose Tattoo.” The play, in short, is a day in the life of an Italian widow that cannot let herself emotionally heal after the death of her husband, inhibiting her from being the person she once was. Think P.S. I Love You meets Moonstruck but set in 1950s Louisiana. Ya dig? I do. In the second act of the show, Serafina gets a second chance at love with the silly, handsome, and sweet Alvaro Mangiacavallo. Their combined powers of attraction and love anxiety lead to hilarity of classic scale. I won’t give too much away because if you’re in the vicinity or thereabouts of Athens, O-high-o you should’ve attended the event in person, old chap.
CHASE, CUTTING TO IT:
I do not like to show my true true romantic side to many. One of my lesser favorite emotional qualities to capture on film or cultivate for the stage, sexuality of lots of kinds. I hadn’t given two thoughts to the huge embarrassment I might feel during rehearsals opposite the very attractive and charming man playing Alvaro, Emilio Tirri, until when during the first read a huge wave of crippling embarrassment slammed into my ego full force. I couldn’t let myself our of my own self-judgement jail cell. The evil tiny voice screeched, “They can all tell you’re a dyke, Jess. No need apply for any acting auditions after graduation… better just call up a fast food mega mall for work, talentless Lesbo!” Cue forced laughter, insufferable chit chat from yours truly, and last but not least facial micro expressions at odd intervals, vocal grunts included.
I WAS NEVOUS TO SHOW LOVE OR LOVE LIKE EXPRESSION FOR A MAN IN FRONT OF A ROOM FULL OF HUMANS I TRY TO RESPECT, OKAY?!
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell…
That was day one of rehearsal. By the cusp of our 23rd rehearsal, I was feeling much more at ease sharing an intimate moment with a man in the eyelight of aforementioned respected humans. And yes, the love I have crafted for this character is real love I really feel for other women I’ve been enamored by. I am not a liar. I am an actor. The process took countless hours of superimposed dopamine soaked memories of girlfriends and lovers past and present implanted into Tennessee Williams’ terrific script in order to properly showcase the attraction between Serafina and Alvaro. Many thanks in part to our wonderful director for knowing subtle ways to soothe my anxiety and offer up helpful tips whilst stuck in loveless acting ruts. I can love a man if I really want to! Hoo-RAH.
And the next time a precious, unknowing soul approaches my choice of career with the slightest mention of dishonesty, I will slap them a copy of Sanford Meisner’s studio notes and a can of proverbial whoop-ass.
Jessica Link’s Homo-Social Experience is one woman’s attempt at navigating this ridiculous world as a badass lesbian. Read her first installment, “Lil Ol Gay Me,” here.