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  • Writer's pictureBrian Martin


Jan 30, 2020:

It’s five o’clock in the morning. Do you know where your keys are? They should be where you left them, right? But they’re not. You were supposed to be going to the gym before work and now you’re running late. You’ve looked all over, but they’re nowhere to be found. Suddenly, there’s a text on your phone. “Where are you? Are you picking me up?”

It’s your co-worker and gym buddy. It was your turn to drive. What do you do now? Do you text back right away, or do you keep searching in the hopes that you’ll find your keys? Are you cursing in frustration yet? After all, you never did get that spare set cut. Maybe instead, you’re mumbling to yourself trying to understand, why now of all times?

You’re turning the cushions of your couch upside down and going through all of the clothes you were wearing the night before. Is it possible you left them in one of your pockets? There’s no way you forgot them in the car when you needed the fob to lock the doors. Maybe, on the way in last night they fell on to the grass and you didn’t hear it.

Now, your phone is ringing. Your partner probably thinks you slept in and is trying to wake you up. Do you answer right away or do you keep looking? You don’t want to let your buddy down, do you? You’re tired because you got up early just to do this thing. Now, you’re not even sure if you’re going to get to work on time, never mind the gym. Feel that frustration. Does your head hurt, or is there something else stirring within you that reveals itself?

Suddenly, you’ve found them. The keys, they were hiding under a piece of paper on your desk. It doesn’t matter how they got there, all that matters in this second is that you found them, and now a sense of reprieve flushes over your body like a warm shower. The tension has subsided. You pick up your keys and adeptly stride out the door.

Several days later you are in an audition, or perhaps you are playing in a scene, and you need to recapture that feeling, that moment of frustration immediately followed by welcome relief. It’s there, inside of you. Lurking behind a door that when opened will not only reveal the path to that irritation but also guide you down the escape hatch to absolution.

How do you find that door? Afterall, there are many. Each one with their own specific tell (just like a poker player). Do you remember the tell? Was it the spasm in your neck, or maybe the churning of your guts? A twitch in your eye, a cry out loud, or could it have been the white knuckled clenching of your fist? Find the tell that triggers the emotion.

This is the wizardry of acting. Substitutions and endowments. Substitute your untimely inability to bring out your characters true emotion with one of your own (using your tell) and endow the plastic sword in your hand with the strength of Valyrian steel (I raised my arm like John Snow and suddenly my blade is true), but be wary, at some point you do need to assume your characters real sentiments without the aid of crutches, because eventually those buttresses will fatigue.

My acting coach tells me though that at this point in my training it doesn’t matter what acting methods I employ to bring my characters to life. Nor, does it matter what inspires me, all that does matter is that I am believable. But, not unlike all that I have undertaken in my life, this too must be learned.

So, it was good practice for me to not freak out when my son told me that he used my transportable coffee cup to drink his tea out of, and then neglected to clean it and put it back where it belonged so that I might have been able to use it when I needed it. No, instead I relied upon one of my newly learned substitutes to act as though it was no big deal and endowed myself with a look of understanding as I headed towards the door already late for my doctors appointment. Now, where the fuck are my keys?

Until next time.

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