The girls' foray into acting this summer (check out the film's website!) has somehow tumbled now into a new passion for both of them. Both of the girls signed up for the Junior Theatre program after school this fall, and I have been the parent volunteer for Mikaela's group for the last eight weeks...making photocopies, helping with costumes, and basically just getting a chance to spy on the kids in their natural (school) habitat. The thing that has been most fun about this though has been watching how willing the younger kids are to become their characters -- to just succumb to the thrill of it. The older kids are self-conscious, shy, awkward. But the younger kids just go for it. It seems that the littler kids have few, if any, insecurities. They simply pretend; it's truly putting on a play. Mikaela is the Lion in a very abbreviated version of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." She's got two lines, but man, does she give it all she's got. But I can see just that sliver of hesitation, the knowledge that she is being watched. Assessed. That awareness of self that will likely become the ruling force in her life in just a few more years. And it kills me.
I did a lot of acting and dancing when I was a kid, and I distinctly remember the point at which I became cripplingly self-conscious. I was cast as a snake in my dance recital. I was fifteen, and I wore a full-body snakeskin unitard. I had to take off my glasses in order to dance, and I was blind as a bat on the stage. A boy I liked was in the audience, and I remember being mortified that he was out there...somewhere (because I couldn't see him) watching me bend and slither all over the stage. After ten years of dancing, I quit that year. That was my very last recital.
I wonder if the best performers, the best actors and dancers and singers are the ones who never lose that ability to let go...to be on stage with absolute abandonment of self.