I received a video from Eric Roberts, which I’ve watched with wholehearted fascination. The video is posted on the site of Mr. Rob Moss. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWDJkmGgYAg)
This 11 minute and 34 second video is richly fertile for an exploration that is at the heart of all performers.
It beautifully sets the stage for an authentic, unflinching, uncompromising, and incisive exploration of the concept of Nervousness/Anxiety/Fear/Stage Fright.
Truth be told, human beings live on a bed of anxiety. It permeates their every waking moment. And the vast majority of our time here on earth is not spent living. It is spent in a reactive state to the seedlings of anxiety which pervade our daily existence.
In this discourse, we will shine a focused light upon this concept of Stage Fright.
I will use the contents of this wonderful video to guide this exploration.
Eliza Roberts, actress and casting director, interviews Lila Garrett, veteran actress, director, producer, and writer.
PICASSO’S GREEN INDIGESTION
At the 3:00 minute mark, Lila quotes Picasso as saying, “When I go into a forest, I get green indigestion. And I paint a green picture.” And then she states that as an actor “You’re not able to get green indigestion because the audience is in the way.” She then says, “Instead of concentrating on getting into the character, you’re concentrating on conveying an impression to an audience.”
As I’ve said before, this is wonderfully fertile ground.
Let us tackle the first statement: “You’re not able to get green indigestion because the audience is in the way.”
As we learned from Shakespeare’s plays, nothing is at seems. It is the same with human beings and our problems.
Let us examine what truly is “in the way.”
If an actor were to look at the audience while standing in the back of the room, he or she wouldn’t consider the audience to be “in the way” of anything.
But if the actor looks at the audience while standing on the stage, the audience suddenly appears to be “in the way” of green indigestion, as Lila (and Picasso) calls it.
Why does the actor feel that the audience is in the way when she is standing on stage?
Because when the actor looks out into the audience, it is not the audience that she sees. If all she saw was the audience, I assure you with complete certainty that there would no problem.
Human beings do not see through their anatomic eyes. They see through the Mind’s Eye.
And when the actor stands on stage and looks out into the audience, what she sees through her mind’s eye is herself standing on stage looking out at the audience.
I must make this clear: The actor does not see the audience. The actor, through her mind’s eye, sees herself standing on stage looking out at the audience.
She sees herself, she sees the audience, and she feels the gravity of the situation.
Hear this: If the actor sees only herself, there is no problem. If The actor sees only the audience, there is no problem. But if the actor sees both herself and the audience, conflict is born.
It is the same with Life. If there is only You, there is no problem. For then you will see yourself in everyone. If there is only the Other, there is no problem. For then you will see the other as yourself. But if there is you and the other, conflict is inevitable.
There are no tips and tricks. I rather despise tips and tricks. For they are borne of the attempt to “fix” rather than the attempt to Understand.
If you look at this problem from the standpoint of “dealing with stage fright” or “lessening stage fright” you will never be free of it.
But if you address it from the fundamental source of the stage fright, you can be free of it forever.
I will highlight a few Truths about this situation:
If the actor has any hope of gaining something from the audience, such problems will arise.
If the actor uses his craft as a vehicle for accomplishment, such problems will arise.
Why is this so?
In studying the sinews of the human mind and watching its ways in various creative outlets, from professional sports to the creative arts to the world of high-powered executiveship, I’ve learned that the mind is debilitated in the face of Sincerity.
It is fundamentally a reward-seeking machine.
And if the human being buys into this idea of reward, he or she suffers.
At the 4:56 minute-mark and the 7:00 minute-mark in the video that Lila explains how she is unaffected by nervousness when she gives a speech. Because she feels “passionately” about the topic.
This stands perfectly to reason.
Because when she is passionate, she is not hoping or wishing for anything from the audience.
Expressed in a more fundamental way, she has given herself to her passion. And because she has given herself to her passion, it is her passion that speaks, rather than her.
And because she “herself” is not doing the speaking, there is no one for the stage fright to attack.
Here is the most fundamental truth: As long as there is no “you” in the act, there is no one there to suffer.
HOW MUCH IS ON THE LINE
At the 9:47 minute-mark, Eliza makes a seminal statement. She says, “It has a lot to do with how much you feel is on the line.”
I will never forget the question that my then 8-year old son asked me on the golf course. I remember to this day that we were standing in the fairway of the third hole and as we were returning to our golf cart, he said, “Daddy, where does fear come from?”
I was struck by the question. Completely out of the blue. Such a deep question from an 8-year-old child.
I did not allow myself to “think” of the answer. For if I allowed myself to “think” I would just go in circles. So I allowed instinct to speak for me.
And this is what instinct said, “Wherever there is a perceived consequence, there is fear.
And this is what Eliza says in this video: “It has a lot to do with how much you feel is on the line.”
So here is the million dollar question. And it is this million dollar question that will spawn the great question we have been constructing.
The million dollar question is: What exactly is on the line?
Some will say that it is ego. The harsh words of others. Or embarrassment, humiliation, or failure.
On the face of it, this is what it seems.
But this is not the real truth. We must go deeper.
For there are those in the world who can be humiliated and laugh along with the crowd. They are simply not affected by it. So it cannot be just the humiliation.
Then what is it? What is it that’s “on the line?”
What’s on the line is the relationship we will have with ourselves when the performance has ended.
What affects us human beings is not the insult. It’s the after-taste.
The reason that we feel angry if we are called an idiot isn’t because we are called an idiot. It’s because somewhere within ourselves we, for a fraction of a second, begin to entertain the possibility that we are, in fact, an idiot.
This, then, produces an inner conflict. This is the after-taste. And it is the inner conflict that manifests itself outwardly, as anger.
Therefore, if the actor’s relationship with him or herself was solid and sound, then there would no longer be anything “on the line.”
And this is the actor’s holy grail.
As I often say, unless you arrive whole, you will leave empty-handed.
Thus, the great question(s) are “What is standing between me and completeness?” “What is keeping me from feeling whole?”
For once a person feels Whole, he or she is Impenetrable by the slings and arrows of circumstance.
And in this state, she can create her art with wild abandon, and total Freedom.
On Barbra Streisand And Mark Ruffalo
I learned for the first time that Barbra Streisand quit appearing on stage because of stage fright. The truth is, that stage fright is simply a manifestation of us not seeing our life for what it truly is. Rather we see through the lens of the mind. But if we learn to ask the Incisive questions about the source of our frailties, we see that they are all frailties of the mind, rather than frailties of ourselves.
I also learned that Mark Ruffalo asks for repeated takes on account of nervousness. But this is not just Mark’s problem. Frankly it’s something that afflicts us all. And if he were to submit himself wholly to the concept of No-Mind, his repeated takes would vanish in a relatively short period of time.
The human being is at his best when he lives Outside the world of thought. And inside the world of Instinct.
“The zone” is NOT the state in which the mind is calm. It is the state in which The Mind has disappeared. It is a state of No-Mind. Ask Tom Cruise, as he briefly encounters it in his Momentous and Inspirational Film, The Last Samurai (Clips on No-Mind: http://bit.ly/1AN8car and http://bit.ly/1L83kje). I’ve always wanted to ask Tom and Ken how precisely that movie changed their lives. It’s simply a masterpiece!
(I am incredibly inspired by the sensibilities of director, Ed Zwick. He is a Master. And one day I’d love to shake his hand tell him personally).
When “you” disappear, your Masterpiece will appear.
On a final note, I must say that what transpires at the 10:24 mark of this video literally brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful thing for a mother to say to her daughter. As a father, it hits home.
I sincerely thank Eric for sending me this video. It is one that needs to be watched by every actor/performer in the world.
It is yet another example of the fact there are no “work-related” problems. There are only human problems.
And it highlights the great truth that all conflict is self-conflict.
Creativity Is The Smoke That Rises: http://bit.ly/1JDDuV9
Nervousness Amongst World Class Performers: The Truth That’s Never Been Told: bit.ly/2gIbhrb
Acting Is Not An Act: http://bit.ly/HySK9t
Vulnerability Is The Product Of Wisdom: http://bit.ly/1HgNQoy