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Entries in acting (1)

Sunday
Apr252010

How are acting and writing the same?

Me and Shawn Evenson as "Melissa" and "Andy" on the set of Love Letters.

When the last page is written or the last word is spoken, I cannot avoid a sense of loss; that the journey is over and can never be repeated again.

Recently, I completed the umpteenth draft of my novel, Kuna Heaven, but feeling that I’m 98% satisfied with it, I’m taking the next step to find an agent. I miss the act of writing and revising my novel and find it hard not to mess with it further. You know what I mean, to read and re-read each chapter and take out a comma here or rewrite a sentence there. I have to let it go (for now) and get on with the next phase of bringing this story to readers.

Today I had a similar feeling of loss and a longing to extend a process that fed and challenged my creativity in another area, acting. This afternoon’s matinee was my last of a short, four-day run of Love Letters, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by A.R. Gurney. Afterwards, I had to say good bye to my co-actor, the director, and all the supporting staff—all new friends I’d made through the process of rehearsing and performing the play. Never again can we repeat the same success or experience the thoughtful and caring support we gave each other.

More than once I’ve mulled over the relationship between acting and writing and am convinced that the fiction writer is an actor at heart through and through. Both an actor and a writer must create a dream. The dream must be so convincing that the reader/audience loses itself in the illusion without consciously being aware that it exists only in the mind of the writer/actor.

Sheila O’Connor, assistant professor at Hamline University and author of Where No Gods Came and Tokens of Grace, speaks of the “dream” often in her fiction classes, but specifically in her novel writing class. The reader must be lost in the dream of the story and if for any reason the reader is knocked out of the dream, then the writer has not done his or her job.

The same goes for the actor, but both writer and actor have to begin by dropping all intentions and allow for the story to flow through them naturally. This necessitates the mind entering an altered state, a state in which intuition trumps intention. This is the moment when art separates from craft.

My friend, Amy, wrote me after today’s performance, “…I forgot it was you up there because I was so interested in the character that you were embodying.” I hope that my readers feel the same way about my writing—that they forget all about me and instead believe in the characters to the point of losing themselves in the dream.

"Caesar and Cleopatra" as published in the 2009 issue of ROCK PAPER SCISSORS.