embracing my ‘bad’

Rehearsals for Look After You are going well. There have been some staff changes on my show and it’s been a little tough emotionally. I am definitely getting a crash course in the business of doing theatre, something actors (and writers) aren’t always privy to in a normal situation. I would be lying if I said that it hasn’t been very hard but the focus has been the play, my play, and making it everything it can be so that is a rare and amazing thing.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Friday the 24th, so if you are somewhat local to New York City, or planning a trip here between the 14th and the 29th of August, I’d love to have you as part of the audience.

I have decided to make this blog a place to talk about my life and my work, which often feel one and the same. I don’t want to shy away from the tough stuff so I figured I should jump in and write what I perceive to be the hardest post in the near future. It’s about reviews. Now I was given amazing advice very early on to not read anything written about a play I was currently performing in until the run was over. Even the raves, they change your work. If someone says they love a certain line and the actor hears that, you can be sure that it will never be done that brilliant way again. It’s just too hard to banish the voices, good and bad, from your head and just do your job.

When I do sit down and read reviews after the fact, or if someone slips and mentions something during, they have (luckily) been positive comments for me. However, I was involved in a production that received mixed reviews. People loved and people hated the exact same choices, moments and actors. It was directed to be performed in a very specific, stylized manner. Many of the reviews were kind, flattering even, but one (and I’ll never forget it) said that I was “wooden” and “unconvincing.” I tried to shake it off, buffering myself with the explanation that it was how I was directed or that it was one person’s opinion. Other reviews mentioned my warmth and passion. My emotional journey and my skill with the text. But you know what? The positives don’t stick. I actually had to go back and look them up, but those two words are burned in my memory. They have created little wounds that might never heal.

One of the things about being an artist is that factor of subjectivity. It’s not math or science, it is ephemeral and personal. So how do I handle this? Because although it’s the first negative words about me in print, it will definitely not be the last. That’s the way it goes. I know that. So I’ve squared my shoulders and made a decision. I chose to embrace those words, wooden and unconvincing, and wear them as a talisman against ever forgetting that as hard as I try and as enthusiastically as I might be heralded or revered, I can always be better. I wear them as battle scars that show I can survive.

Thanks for reading. I was nervous to write this, scared of being judged. Not sure if mentioning my criticisms would kill the ghost or give it exponentially more power. But I wouldn’t want to be doing anything different with my life so there’s no other option.

“After all, one knows one’s weak points so well, that it’s rather bewildering to have the critics overlook them and invent others.”

~Edith Wharton

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

Things I’m digging: Itty Bitty Kitty Committee, Running on Empty

Dream Role: Cordelia in King Lear

2 Comments

  1. Long Huynh
    July 24, 2009

    “I chose to embrace those words, … and wear them as a talisman against ever forgetting that as hard as I try and as enthusiastically as I might be heralded or revered, I can always be better.”

    You are very brave and wise, Louise. Facing with a negative thing in life (a harsh critique in this case), most people would pretend that it doesn’t exist and seek refuge behind a “think positive” facade. You choose to confront it and channel it into something useful.

    “Not sure if mentioning my criticisms would kill the ghost or give it exponentially more power.”

    The criticism is in itself a neutral event. It’s you who feel good or bad about it. If you can detach your feeling from the event and focus on controlling your feeling, the event cannot harm you. The ghost of the event will always be there but it has no power, unless you feed him with fear, anger or denial.

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  2. John Lepp
    July 23, 2009

    great great post Louise. i think the toughest thing in life is being creative which opens us up to constantly being judged. Everything we do. That’s a downside. The upside is we get to be creative every day. We get to do things we love. And like Seth Godin says, “boring people don’t get criticized”. Thanks for the post.

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