Yesterday was my last acting class for this semester. I’m not going to lie; I seriously considered not showing up. I had skipped last week’s class since I had just gotten in from out of town and didn’t feel like sitting for three hours getting lectured at. Besides, I didn’t know my monologue and scene as much as I wanted. I’d figured I’d have the entire week to perfect my scenes, but of course, that didn’t happen. I was terrified of performing, even in front of only 10 people. I knew that if I didn’t go, I would be a quitter and a coward, and I’m against living a cowardly life. I’ve run from things that were scary to me too many times in the past. I was determined to go through with this.
Still, I had been a little frustrated with the class. My teacher tended to lecture and take things way too seriously. I can understand if we were in a competitive acting program, like Juilliard, but we were in a community college acting class, which had a motley group of mothers and full-time employees and college students. Most of us would never even attempt professional acting, but were just in it for fun. Going to these classes were supposed to be enjoyable. Getting lectured at like I’m back in high school is not enjoyable.
An hour before class, I was sitting in my car, reading over the scripts. I had the monologue memorized, even with my bad Southern accent, but didn’t have my other scene memorized fully. My scene partner showed up and we practiced. She told me that the class I had missed had not been good. My teacher had gotten upset at the scene performances and apparently told the class that some of them were not meant for acting. My partner said that one girl had gotten so upset that she didn’t want to come back, but my partner had convinced her to come back. This made me nervous but I told my partner that we should just have fun with it and not worry about it, since this class was supposed to be fun anyway.
We had to perform monologues first, and I made the choice to go last. I learned that my instructor is usually more critical of the people who go first, and they have to do their scenes over and over again. Everyone did a good job with their monologues. Mine was Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In the scene, she is talking to her husband Brick about how her in-laws and how much she dislikes her sister-in-law. I went up and started, “Big Daddy dotes on you honey…” and skipped over the next line in nervousness. I told my teacher I had to start again. She had given us permission to start over before we started, so she nodded approvingly. I stood with my face against the wall, thinking, “Get it together Jenny, get it together Jenny. You KNOW this.” I started over and this time went through my monologue without a hitch. I found myself getting lost in the character and it reminded me of the joy of acting and why I had started taking this class in the first place. No matter what my teacher was going to say about my performance, she couldn’t take that away from me.
Everyone clapped at the end, and my teacher said I had done a good job. I talked too fast (even though I had tried not to), but she was kinder about it this time. She also gave me advice about doing my scene in front of a mirror, to make it more obvious with certain movements.
During our break, a classmate came up to me and told me that he thought I had done a great job. He said that he knew I was looking into a mirror. At one point in my monologue, Maggie is discussing how her father-in-law looks lecherously at her boobs when she talks to him, so I adjusted my bra at this point and then sashayed into the chair (which was an unconscious movement). He really liked that choice.
Next, I had to perform a scene from Steel Magnolias. I played Shelby, and the scene was where she tells her mother she is pregnant. My partner forgot some of her lines but luckily I recognized the cues and was able to insert various parts of the scene into the cues. I don’t think anyone noticed that we had only performed half the scene. I didn’t care at this point – I was happy to just have the performance out of the way. My teacher again was complimentary, saying I brought a lot of youth and energy to the role. She said that I was talking too fast (again), but again was kind about it, saying that she understood how difficult it is to talk slower when you naturally have a fast internal rhythm, like I do.
At the end she gave us homemade cake and gave me a big hug, telling me to come back and to stick with acting (I swear she’s the nicest lady when you aren’t performing in front of her). She also told the whole class, “Wow, you guys came through! At the last minute!” which gave me a little idea of what I had missed.
I am very glad that I took this class. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I need to slow down my speech in public performances. I learned that I need to be pushed out of my comfort zoned, and that I really enjoy performing despite my stage fright. I also learned that acting is a big commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I probably won’t take another class until the next semester. I might audition for a play but I will have to be sure I can commit to it. I’ll still try and be an extra when I can (not on My Generation, that already got canceled, lol). I still want to act in the future. Who knows when this class will have come in handy?