Acting isn't just reacting. It's also making a statement.
It was the third weekend of Bell, Book, & Candle at Second Story Theatre. As Shep Henderson, I was executing the last scene opposite Valerie Westgate’s Gill Holroyd. Ex-lovers after 2-months reunited, testing the water, again, under the mask of an argument. You see, she had been a witch who cast a spell on me to be in love with her… but after I storm out when realizing the facade, she fell in love too late, and lost her powers because of it. Despite her efforts, I figured it out during the reuniting… “I want to make sure it’s the real thing [love/attraction] this time,” I said.
|Me & Michael Puppi from a recent promo shoot for OUT LOUD Theatre|
On that specific late August Saturday performance, I was hit by a brick of symbolism saying that line. I wasn’t just speaking literally, I want to make sure it’s not magic. More importantly, this time meant also that after every other potential connection my character may have ever had, he hoped this one was real. Hoping, like so many of us do on the search for finding love, that finally on this mythic journey, it had all worked out. When I infused the line with that depth, I saw the middle-aged men in the audience shift to the edge of their seats. Maybe because I felt those men listen and key-in with me from the start of the show, identifying with my need for and openness toward her love.
Acting is my favorite thing to do, because I get to not only explore aspects of myself I may not otherwise, but also because I continuously learn about myself and others. Shep Henderson gets to love, and he gets to be affectionate, and demand answers from someone he cares about. He sets boundaries when he realizes trust was deteriorated, but has perspective enough to open his arms with generosity and understanding when time heals and trust is regained. I am not Shep Henderson, but I realize now, several weeks after closing, that he did change me. Spending all that time building the logic toward his actions, feeling them, executing his actions and principals, I unearthed that I have the capacity to do those things, as well. Again, I am not Shep, but I did make him, and Van Druten’s words taught me things about myself I couldn’t have necessarily discovered without his prompting. I was able to sally forth into my daily life with his lessons. Communicating is getting easier.
Also, as a very single adult in his late 20s, doing the show was a gift. It didn’t replace the lack of companionship in my life, but it did give me the opportunity to express parts of my being I don’t get to otherwise. It was almost therapeutic. My humanity does exist, I'd say to myself! Almost any role does that. Alexandra Silber, one of the most extraordinary teachers and friends in my life, has said that about her work as an actor, as well. I can’t think of anything more rewarding, honestly; connecting to parts of ourselves we may never have known. If we are worth our salt as actors, we will practice what we preach through our work, and become more empathetic, kind, and patient in our daily lives. It’s not easy, life is hard and long and defense mechanisms are built. But if we can remind ourselves what we are capable of, actors or not, I think we can sleep better at night after disappointments.