Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding My Voice

I once dreamed of the bright lights of Broadway because I felt at home on stage in someone else's life during rehearsals and the duration of the play. It seems I've always been on a stage or raised dais of some sort as an actor, speech tournament, at church, or standing up for my younger brothers and cousins. In all these past roles, it could have been easy to have gotten lost, overwhelmed, or angry. 

Acting was an escape, and sometimes shedding the character I'd spent so much time creating was akin to losing a part of my soul. Inhabiting a life with a different set of challenges was enticing whether I was a homeless vagabond for Thanksgiving in a junior high school production, or a teen street hustler in an off-Broadway theatre on Restaurant Row.

An actor's training is invaluable, and I recommend at least one intensive acting workshop if only to test emotional and spiritual boundaries. I could be young or old, American or foreign-born with the proper dialect training and rehearsals. There's no such protective and nurturing cocoon in real life outside a familial home. It's usually trial and error, emphasis on the errors. There are no do-overs.

I didn't know I was a good actor, or I should say accept I was a good actor until others begin complimenting. I knew the ghouls and demons that haunted and taunted me at home or on the school playground, and used them as fuel as an actor. I was strong on stage and later film, whereas such bravery didn't come as easily outside the rehearsal space or performances. 

I sought shelter in other worlds that were less painful than my own. My directors and fellow cast members didn't judge me as did my family, classmates, or churchgoers. They didn't need to really, I was doing a great job ostracizing myself in the full length bathroom mirror. The make-believe shielded and comforted not unlike Granny's hugs and kisses on my forehead before walking to school. 

Initially it was difficult to separate myself from the characters I played on stage and go to the next class when the school bell sounded or return home and deal with my parents who either refused to or didn't understand and accept that I was different. I wouldn't grow up to play sports, walk on the moon, or cure a disease.

Acting took on a new meaning in my second high school. It was at my predominantly white, racially-mixed school that acting and actors looked and behaved unlike before. Perhaps it was the big fish from a previous small pond floundering in a large sea of high school angst, new racial tensions, prejudices, and competition. Mr. Hudson and Dr. Owens weren't there to guide me and give historical and cultural context to my characters. They were replaced by a musical theatre maven coach who begrudgingly complimented me and never cast me or the other three black students in advanced theatre class in a lead role.  

It was in high school that I got a crash course in the underside of Hollywood that I now know changed the prism through which I saw auditioning and acting. Acting was no longer pure or raw for me on too many levels. It was and remains far more complex than any character I've created. I think the best actors suffer from a form of acting schizophrenia. How else could we do what we do?  

Years later after I endured one too many sexual advances or accidental touches, I walked away from acting, not because I no longer had talent or wanted to perform, it all became too much for me. I know others who've done the same and have become successful in other aspects within the industry or hover nearby. Once bitten by the acting bug, it's not easy to leave wholeheartedly. Performance training and acting have come in handy in the past when I taught MS Office Suite in corporate America, worked on a help desk, taught Pre-GED/GED in an inner city educational nonprofit, or the bane of most New York and LA city actors, hotels and restaurants.

I no longer regret having left the New York cattle call grind because it was part of my journey. I don't rule out returning to the stage or film as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, director or producer. Maybe an admixture of all as a number of others have done and continue to do. 

I've arrived at this point in my life as founder and creative director of Morningside Writers Group and founder and account generator (among my many hats) of Keneritz Media because it's my natural progression. What better place to be than a writing community to help shape the next crop of plays, screenplays, short stories and novels that might be adapted to film and collaborate with production companies and producers? What better place to be than surrounded by talented singer-songwriters, artists, and small businesses that need a Pied Piper to lead them to their next logical step? 

This is my voice. I am many faces and things to different people, and if not for my schizophrenic acting training, I'd be one-dimensional and unable to handle and nurture the revolving door of writers and artists that have and will cycle through both of my creative enterprises.

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