Characters that change you

My theater department just finished its latest show, Night of the Living Dead. It was a fun show – not incredibly deep, but scary and a lot of fun. So I find it interesting how much my character has influenced me as an actor, and even as a person. I played the police chief, which in itself isn’t incredibly important, but what is important is how the show as a whole has changed me.

The first thing about my character is that he really represents my antithesis. He’s an old, power hungry, NRA-touting cop. He’s basically the comic relief of the show, which was difficult for me in so many ways. I mean, first off, I have a lot of trouble playing comedy, just because it’s difficult for me not to break character. And ya know, there are various levels of character that you can get into, and this one required me to crawl deep down into a shell of a character, so breaking would obviously be very clear. And bad. 😛

More important than my character was my role as a hole. The show is about zombies and is rife with fear – I’ve learned that the most important thing to scaring your audience is feeling and embracing the fear yourself. For me, this was incredibly difficult. I’ve had a few experiences in my childhood that – long story short – left me jumpy and nervous pretty much constantly. Fear is an emotion that I’ve struggled with to no end for much of my life, it’s right up there with anger. I suppose I’m just such a passionate person that I have trouble finding a controllable level of emotion. And fear is a biggun. To be a part of this show, it was incredibly difficult for me to straddle the line between fear and terror. Ya know, between just being scared (or even really scared) and that disgusting animal terror.

Opening night was a big deal. I was actually terrified by my fellow actors. I had been trying to be afraid as my character, and respond to the fear as my character, but there was just absolutely nothing I could do to not let the fear get to me. So I let it come. I embraced the primal terror, that throwback to the time when we were little animals scurry around underfoot of the dinosaurs.

And, much to my surprise, it ebbed. I really honestly couldn’t believe it. All my life, I’ve fought fear and fear as fought back. But once I let fear in, it didn’t stay, it released me. I don’t feel like I’m being controlled by fear any longer.

You know what? Fear? I’m not your bitch any longer.

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