I never did get around to formalizing my writing plan for 2011, but one of the things I have mentally put on it has been to sharpen my skills in reading my stuff out loud. I'm not bad at it, mind you, but I'm no Rob Shearman or Richard Harland. After hearing them both read (each a master in his own way of the art of reading your own stuff), I resolved to beef up my technique. Professional development, don'tcha know.

I have a three-pronged attack strategy for this: read my stuff out loud to an audience at least four times this year, after having deliberately prepared and rehearsed; memorize a particular prose poem of mine that I (and others, I'm told) like, and prepare it for performance at a slam or slam-like event; and get some acting training. The first does not trouble me: reading my stuff out loud per se is not scary. The second and third, though....

Theoretically, I know it's possible to memorize enormous numbers of words for performance. Some of the people I love best in the world do it routinely. But I remain profoundly unconvinced that my brain is equipped to do it. The idea is that if I manage to do it once, I can do it at any time, and I don't have to be afraid anymore. How will this help me get better at reading my stuff? Watch the video I linked to Rob's name, above. Watch how he does a fair bit of that story from memory. See how powerful a connection he can make with the audience that way. That's what I want.

And acting — ah, acting. A source of great discouragement and shame for me from my youth, when the blank face and perfunctory nods that the high-school drama teacher gave me contrasted so painfully with the enthusiasm he showed for the "naturals." Ever since, I've known to the core of my soul that I was just embarrassing myself every time I attempted my clumsy, stilted, ineffectual "acting." But so much of reading your stuff out loud is acting. There are techniques that can be learned, unhelpful habits that can be broken, helpful habits that can be instilled. You can learn to observe language and vocal quality and reproduce them for your purposes. If I've learned nothing else from 25 years of karate (although I have, in fact, learned plenty), it's that for most crafts, care, diligence, and intense focus on detail can get you a lot farther than talent can. They may not entirely compensate for lack of natural talent, but they can get you a pretty long way along the road.

So, yeah, yesterday I went to an acting workshop run by Circus WOW. It was sort of a general physical-theatre workshop: some vocal awareness, some interaction and improv games, even a little clowning. It was a real challenge for me on a lot of levels. But I've stepped across the barrier: I've acted with people watching. I can keep going. I can learn.


At 4:44 PM, Anonymous bethanne Schrecengost said...

Laura ~ Perhaps it was not your acting chops, but said highschool drama teacher, that was the problem. I experienced the same blank stare. Imagine my surprise when I was cast in several plays in college and did a paid gig at a dinner theater! I KNOW you have it in you.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Laura E. Goodin said...

Ah, so it *wasn't* my imagination, then -- he really *was* that obnoxious and supercilious!

Thanks for the encouragement!

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous north face outlets said...

I’ll be really curious about what you think of the pizzas then! Enjoy and keep me posted.


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