Shedding Tears

cryingI cried yesterday. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been so keen to tell you that but I’m now proud to say it because for the purpose of acting crying is a good thing. Any actor needs to know how to cry in front of people. The trouble is, that especially for a man, it is very difficult to get over the barrier of being stoic. For a while now I have been able to cry when I am alone in my room. All I need to do is think about something very sad and I can force the tears. Music helps a lot. There are a few songs in particular that help me to cry. Everytime I listen to the song Blood by The Middle East for example I cannot help it. And while Roy Orbison’s Crying doesn’t make me cry, it definitely reflects the emotion, and is stuck in my head while writing this post. But still, in acting class, even if I am feeling an intense feeling of sadness my eyes dry up and I can’t show it. In the real world we don’t show vulnerability for a reason. To see a man crying is a rare thing. If a man starts crying in front of people it’s seen as a sign of weakness. That’s why we don’t do it. The last thing we want to do is reveal the chinks in our armour. In fact we go to great lengths to hide any chinks, why on Earth would we want to publicise them to the world?

I have tried for a long time to actually cry tears in class, and in one class a couple of months ago I actually broke down when I couldn’t get the tears to come. I ended up walking out of class in a storm of confusion. But in yesterday’s class I finally managed to shed three whole tears. As the tears ran down my cheek I felt an odd mixed sensation of sadness and joy. I was sad because of watching my partner break down into tears in front of me, and at the same time I was relieved that I was crying! Imagine how nerve wracking it is to talk in front of an audience, to perform in front of people, and then imagine how difficult it is for a man to cry in front of others watching your every move. This is the first step in letting out all my sadness, and I know I have a lot of sadness to let out. But it’s a great feeling to be on this path. Crying is such a beautiful thing, and it should not be feared. Our vulnerability is what makes us human.

The whole acting exercise was amazing. At the start of the exercise both Begum and I were struggling to get on track and completely connect with each other. We were in the white water rapids of emotion and both of us were desperately hanging onto the rocks to keep ourselves from going under and losing ourselves in the experience. Usually in any normal acting exercise like this, if two students are hanging on like that, nothing is going to change unless the teacher steps in and tries to pry the students from the rocks. Like barnacles in a rockpool students can be stubborn! But good acting moves with the flow of the moment like a leaf in the rapids. The amazing thing is, that if you go with the flow you don’t get hurt. Sure, there are rocks, and there is shallow water, and you get thrown about, but if you give yourself to the experience you can’t lose. A leaf in the rapids will not break because it is moving with the energy of the currents. But if you hang on to the rocks for dear life and fight the rapids you get bruised and bloodied, and like a leaf, ripped and torn. Luckily however, something amazing happened in this exercise because without the teacher stepping in, Begum and I both let go of our rocks and drifted like starfish that had left their cosy reef and ventured into the far distant ocean. For that second half of the exercise everything became oddly serene. The rapids became the sea, there was no battle anymore and without any struggle there was no need to hide our vulnerability.

I liken acting to playing the piano. Everyone has notes that they play. Some people tend to play the same notes over and over again. Some people will be inclined to play deep notes, others high notes. A good actor can play the the full range of the piano. A really good actor can play the full range and make it sound beautiful. And an exceptional actor can play one of those double level organs you find in churches and make that sound beautiful. In yesterdays exercise Begum and I both struggled to play the scales at first, but managed to hit a few of the right notes at the right time and in the right place, and from there, our song came to life. We both shed tears, and it was beautiful.

So yes, I cried. And I’m proud of it!

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