It is legitimately pouring rain and cold right now in Los Angeles, California. It is very confusing for us all here at USC. Suntanned bleach-blondes are taking the tags off of that-one-super-cute-jacket they bought six months ago, bros are staring out the window with saucer-sized eyes and clutching their skateboards, and most of the Asians are prepared with umbrellas. That last one’s not a stereotype, it’s just a fact. This topsy-turvy weather is kind of fitting though, because I am feeling a little upside down, backwards, and turned around myself. Maybe it’s because, like Britt, I find myself frazzled from exhaustion, but MAYBE it’s because I spent more time upside down in a headstand yesterday than I’ve ever spent in my life.
44 weeks ago, I pinned this onto pinterest:
As you can see at the bottom there, I set the goal in that moment to do a headstand within a year. Come to find out, I had no choice but to accomplish this goal! This crazy dude named Jerzy Grotowski came up with this series of movements called The Cat, which I was taught by Andy Robinson within the first month of being in grad school. The Cat is kiiiiiiinda (emphasis on KINDA) like vinyasa yoga for actors. DO NOT quote me on that. DO NOT tell Jerzy Grotowski I said that. Let me go on with this backwards and upside down explanation by saying that the video below is NOT of the cat, but it IS of some Grotowski physical theatre movement craziness:
No need to watch the whole thing–you’ll start to get the idea of where I’m coming from here. The Cat just involves a couple of shoulder-stands, a headstand, and some back-bends, among other things. But let me tell you, I was the remedial kid when it came to all of this being-upside-down-craziness. I was not that kid on the playground trying out cartwheels or tumbling around the jungle gym. I wasn’t even that kid flip-flopping around in the pool. Dani and planet earth have a very strong relationship, and I don’t take naturally to this whole flirtation with gravity. What the hell do we have feet for, anyway? For standing on the ground, y’all!
Well, you may be asking, “Who cares? This is weird. Why do you have to stand on your head to be an actor?”
…You don’t. But man oh man, is it valuable to be discombobulated, to be afloat, to not know your ass from a hole in the ground. It never ceases to amaze me how much can be learned by being pushed to my limits, by free-falling. You’d think that I’d be used to it at this point in the school year, but not a single day passes when I don’t have to summon up my strength in order to lean into the scary places, allow my weaknesses and cracks to show, and expand beyond my self-imposed limitations. It’s not just a physical challenge–it is mental, emotional, spiritual, all of it. There is a lot of fear to be conquered in learning new things and surprising yourself. I am proud to say that, thanks to yoga class on Sundays, I can now hang out in a headstand for a whole minute! And now the challenge is set to conquer handstands and cartwheels in Clown class. GAHHHH it never endsssss. So again, you may be asking, “What is the point of all of this? How is it possible that people can go to grad school for this?” Actors definitely have a reputation for being self-indulgent, “dramatic,” overly emotional, narcissistic, whatever.
Let me put it this way. You don’t go to the movies to see the day that Meg Ryan didn’t check her email, drank a half a bottle of wine, and woke up the next day still hating that arrogant bastard from work and learning NOTHING about herself! You go to the movies to see this:
…I have NO excuses why I chose that movie for my example. Whatever y’allz, I’m sticking with it. I’m sleep deprived and I’ve been standing on my head! Suck it up and watch the trailer for this mediocre late 90’s RomCom!! Geez.
Anyway, you go to the movies to see the day that Meg Ryan falls in love with the witty guy on the internet and realizes that it’s her coworker and maybe they both need to swallow their pride. You don’t go to a play to see the day that Hamlet’s Dad was still alive and they all had meatloaf for dinner, you go to see the play where Hamlet sees his dead Dad’s ghost and realizes his whole world is upside down, backwards, and topsy-turvy. We don’t pay actors to tell stories in which they are comfortable. We pay them to deal with change, with imbalance, with challenges. We want to see people facing obstacles and we want to learn from who they prove themselves to be by their actions.
So this week, all the work in my program and all the work in my yoga class has left me feeling a little bit scattered, a little bit off balance, a little bit upside down. And I think that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.
In Wonderland, not in…like…Tulsa.