27 October 2008

Fast Times at ACSF

Sean Penn is coming back to Shelley's acting class. He was there a couple of years ago, some months before we put on that play. I quit the class after the play, so I don't know what's been going on there since, but rumors indicate that Shelley's daughter is/was dating Emil Hirsch, who starred in the film Sean had just finished shooting last time he came to the class. So, I imagine Shelley's been keeping the lines of communication open, and now -- well, here he is (supposedly) coming back.

Shelley sent email to me and presumably other erstwhile classmates, inviting us to rejoin the class in the run-up to Sean's return. The weekend after I got that email, I went camping, and spent an evening trying to write a scene to perform for the occasion. But I hit a few dead ends, and, as is typical, haven't picked it back up since then.  So... I don't have anything to show for the past couple of years, in which my excuse for not acting is that I want to write my own part and "play myself".

I was talking at work about Sean Penn coming back. I was standing atop a loading dock awning, painting a warehouse wall with Josh and Caitlyn. Josh has been working with me for years, but Caitlyn was new, and didn't know I'd been in an acting class before. She was asking about my involvement. I gave my usual excuse, that I was "accessing tools of personal expression". She asked if I feel like I'm acting in my day-to-day life. I can't remember how I replied, but I'm sure it sidestepped the question in some way. At least, I didn't focus as much on the question as I'm drawn to doing so now... I look at the phrase above, "my usual excuse, that I was 'accessing tools of personal expression'", and I think of how limited my vocabulary is, how rarely I express a new idea, how often I'm having the same conversation or relating the same story to another audience--how often my own original words or ideas come to feel to me like clichés. Even that sounds clichéd, how often I've said, "I've said this so often it feels like a cliché." Sure, maybe I tailor the phrasing to suit the moment, maybe, but regardless: I can see how my life consists of a lot of rehearsing a series of familiar scenes. Thus, as in any acting situation, I face the ever-present danger of losing touch with the meaning of my words, or choosing the wrong meaning, because I've lost understanding of which is right, or if there even is one. The eternal search for meaning... What does meaning even mean? Ugh. And so on.

It's like a life spent practicing telling jokes; which, actually, is my biggest take-away from Sean's first visit: the man is an entertainer. Pretty much all night, 'til 4am, whether with an audience of one or two, or the entire group, he made effective use of his inevitable position at the center of attention to churn out a seemingly endless stream of jokes and stories. I can only remember one--probably even the next morning I could only remember one. This may be one of the things that differentiates me from successful entertainers. Nonetheless, I retained a joke, one joke, and perhaps it's a testament to Sean's entertainment value that I'm asked to repeat it whenever I mention "Sean Penn at my acting class", to anyone who's heard it before. Anyway, Josh, who's heard it before, asked me to retell it for Caitlyn, and volunteered to play my role in the story (it's a joke with roles--there's physical humor):