For me, this is the hardest question in the world, a little too personal, and with a constant changing answer.
I think the “attraction” to acting starts from a very young age, in childhood, unconsciously at first. You have your inborn curiosity – that you train yourself later on to keep fresh – and you gather all sorts of skills like observation and introspection. Lots of day-dreaming. Playfulness. Role-playing. Position taking. Imaginary worlds becoming real in such a natural way!
And then, at some point, you need a context to “stumble” upon: an acting class/school/club… some sort of “accident” in your life leads you to this fairy land where you find your VOICE. Where you are not afraid of speaking in public anymore, where you inter(act) bravely, and you also have lots of fun! And you never wanna leave that place anymore, no matter the price!
And then, at some point, inevitably, people ask you: why did you choose acting? or How did it start? When did you realise this is what you want to do with your life? Each time this happens, I feel a little harassed, I must admit, and I don’t know how to answer. I feel like any answer I would give would be a little shallow, hypocrite, or incomplete, nonetheless. I think (for me) this is pretty much the same as asking Why do you love your significant other? What made you fall for him/her? When and why did this happen? Could you really, truthfully, tell? Is it something precise that one could point to so specifically? I don’t think so. It’s both too personal and vague, at the same time. Just as in love, things are way more complex, so different for each of us. Not to mention the fact that “the job requirements” are changing all the time, and so are our needs. One day you can be happy about a specific project, the next month you can be dancing your way between different theatres, working like crazy, or other times, the most fulfilling thing to do is to close yourself up in a library where you passionately research a subject that you secretly plan to write a play yourself on! Sometimes you’re poor, but happy, working on a total independent production. Other times you are rich, but too busy, having three rehearsals in a row, one workshop and a performance in the same day – so you don’t really get to feel any sort of accomplishment, because you don’t actually feel your body at all, anymore. No day looks like another. You (may) get to hate that once in a while, but you usually love it.
This is why I think it’s impossible to reach a complete answer to such complex question. Your motivation and needs are constantly changing – but it is indeed a very healthy question to ask yourself. Ask, wonder, suspect, observe, and ask some more. It keeps your acting alive. It keeps you driven and grateful.
Even though I can’t point out a specific moment (and I’m sure there are more), I did manage to identify a few details from my childhood memories that have become milestones in the way I see acting today. (Children are always inspirational. Go see one soon. But you, as a child, are even more relevant to yourself. You will know where to go to when you feel lost. 😉 )
- Playing with dolls – ALONE – and switching roles so quickly! Growing up as a single/lonely child offered me the opportunity to play all the roles! Yey! I do remember being “the bad witch” torturing my doll, and than becoming (in an instant) the “good fairy” that would save and comfort the poor victim. Call it borderline, or schizophrenia if you want, but I remember it being: fun, conflictual, exciting, and fully involving! I still aim for all these each time I go on stage!
- Imagining things that didn’t actually happen. Ups! Yes, you read that well. It took me years to differentiate when “my first kiss” (for example) had actually happened, and when was the one I had “invented”. My friends had all already experienced it, and I guess I felt the pressure to come up with my own story, but at the same time I didn’t want to waste the experience on anyone just to catch up with the girls. So what (I think) I did, was a mix of real characters and imaginary circumstances that led to a very exciting, romantic, still realistic story, that I told so many times, and in so much vivid detail, that I totally believed it myself! I really wish I could do that now, sometimes…
- Finding freedom. As many others do, I come from a “not for me” zone. For some this was math, economics, or polytechnic, for me, it was the piano. It might sound “sort of similar”, being another form of art… trust me, it’s not! It has nothing to do with it. I hated being watched playing the piano. Each other pair of eyes would make my concerts less and less powerful, opposite to now, when I feel the urge to bring more people to my performances – the more, the better. Having someone “to tell my story to” liberated me. It gave me purpose, courage and freedom from the pressure of being watched. In acting you have so many things to do, to act upon, to influence, to reach out! It’s so little about you, and it’s so much about the other one, that for a very shy-lacking-trust-introvert like me, this felt like a total different world was opening ahead. It changed my life.
- Switching my “dream profession” all the time. Another fun thing I remember from childhood is being asked: what do you wanna be when you grow up? I’m not sure what my parents remember, but I think I said something else each time. Lawyer, doctor, astronaut, archeologist, any kind of researcher, actually… I didn’t want just one, but all of them. Which eventually led me to acting. A pretty nice compromise, I would say. It feeds both my need of inquiry, and my need of experience.
What is your story? Do you know how you got here? How did this “germ” get to you? Do you remember anything about your first performances, of any kind? Or about your first film watched? How did they influence you?
Have a great contemplating week with nice memories and good questions!