A few months ago my niece Jordan, 16 years old at the time, indicated she wanted to find an agent and receive some training so she could start working as and actress and model. She and her two younger sisters had gotten some print modeling jobs a few years back so she was somewhat familiar with the process. Though most of the agents and acting schools were in Los Angeles, fifty miles away, through her research she found a local school called The Performer’s Academy in nearby Laguna Hills.
She called and arranged to go to a free introductory class and asked me to go with her, which I gladly did. While she attended the class I spoke with one of the staff named Barbara. We had a pleasant, get acquainted conversation, in which I told her about my years of teaching and my one acting gig, as the Tin Man in a community theater production of The Wizard of Oz several years earlier. After talking for a while, she said, “You should check out Randall’s class. In fact if you want, I’ll take you there and introduce you.”
So we walked down to the classroom where Randall was teaching the last few minutes of a children’s class. As Barbara opened the door I heard him saying to one of the four youngsters who were apparently working on some sort of scene, “You’re acting! Stop acting!” Something about the way he said it really caught my attention. I found it very intriguing and was very curious about what he actually meant. The children’s class ended and Barbara introduced me to Randall. After a brief conversation he invited me to return for a full class next week, to which I agreed.
I showed up the next meeting nervous but ready and willing to participate fully. Over the next few weeks he emphasized several times that it was not about acting, at least in the usual sense of the word, and I eventually began to grasp what he meant. To be clear, I have no ambitions to pursue an acting career, but after these few months of participation, I see how what I’m experiencing and learning in this class is applicable to my personal and professional life.
Here are some of the principles that I have come away with so far:
1) Take risks! We learn when we take chances and stretch ourselves rather than remaining safe and acting out our lives from habit and momentum.
2) There is more than one self inside each of us. With most characters that we portray, there is some aspect inside us with which we can identify with the character we’re playing. These often are shadow aspects that have remained hidden to our consciousness, yet when these are brought fully into awareness, particularly in a safe environment, they can be accepted more readily as part of our humanness. The more familiar we are with these shadow aspects, the less likely they are to control us by remaining out of our awareness.
3) It’s not about “acting” the emotions, but about truly feeling them from the inside out. Whether joy, sadness, suffering or any other range of emotions, it’s about allowing their full and unadulterated expression.
4) We all play out roles in our personal lives and at work, yet even so we can remain identified with the core of who we are that is expressing through these various roles.
5) Allow yourself to participate passionately and with purpose in all that you do. Remain present and as Randall has often said, “see what you see.” This means view from your eyes and your heart what is before you without the filter or screen of your own judgments and stories.
6) Show up! Be present for whatever presents itself to you in your life and trust that you can respond to it confidently and courageously.
I’m sure there are many more lessons some of which are highly personal, but the above are ones that I’m sure anyone can apply make life a little easier. As Randall said, “Stop acting!”