Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Who hasn’t stood alone in the mirror pretending to be Jack Nicholson, or Meryl Streep, or Helen Mirren, or even Jim Carrey?jimcarrey

Okay, maybe some of us haven’t, but a lot of us certainly have.

Performing arts is something I’ve had an interest in for a very long time, but haven’t really dove into before. Sure, I did a few little things in school plays, and some of my friends and I made some movies for class projects, which was always a blast. In high school, my best friend and I even had a “show” on YouTube with some terrible camera work and shoddy sets, but nonetheless our creativity was there, and it really was a blast.

But true performing arts, or theatre, is something I never sunk myself into. It was a combination of things, from perceived social stigma in school, to other time-commitments, and other excuses I could conjure up to not try breaking out of my comfort zone. The biggest reason however, was my utter fear of the stage, having everyone staring at me, waiting for me to screw up, and of course, some serious insecurity issues.

nervousHowever, that’s changed.

Well, I still harbor a lot of those same fears and insecurities, what’s changed is my resistance to giving it a shot.

My wonderful partner, Amber, has convinced me to do acting classes with her at Pullman Civic Theatre (PCT) this winter, and we’re now two classes into a ten-session class. Amber has quite a bit of experience being on stage, particularly when it comes to singing, as she participated in choir and some theatre in high school. Anyone who knows her knows about her gorgeous singing voice, and she’s also done some acting in some musicals, most recently Seussical the Musical, put on by PCT in the summer of 2016.

I went and watched Amber perform as Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical that summer, and that was an experience that stuck with me. Listening to Amber sing made me emotional, tears literally welled in my eyes, and it wasn’t just the fact that I was starting to fall in love with her (even though we weren’t yet together), it was also the music, and the people on stage pouring their hearts into the art. Not doing it for money or fame, but for the art itself, for the way it made them feel.

amber

Amber as Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical the Musical.

While Amber has plenty of experience singing, she wants to work more on her acting skills, as she hasn’t done quite as much of that. She recently auditioned for Babes in Toyland, a winter production by PCT, and while her singing was incredible as always, her acting skill is where she thinks she fell short. She believes improving her acting skills, and developing a closer relationship with the art of acting, will help her get the bigger roles someday that she’d like to land.

So, while Amber’s goals for this class are to take her performing arts skills to the next level, my goals are a little different. Being that this is my first acting class ever, I just want to become more comfortable on stage, and break out of my shell, my comfort zone, and experience a new art form.

I also believe having an understanding of the stage, and what it’s like to do theatre acting will help me to develop as a writer, in terms of my storytelling ability.

While I’m terrified of doing a monologue, an actor’s showcase, and all the scary things our instructor Travis Gray will be asking of us, I’m excited to see where the class takes me, where it takes Amber, and where it takes the other great people in the class whose development I’ll be able to witness first-hand.

So far, a lot of the class has been lecture, but it sounds as if things will start to heat up a bit as we move forward, and we will be on-stage and acting more and more as the class goes on. Last week, we did an activity using what’s called an “Open Scene”. We were given a short scene with equally short dialogue that didn’t explicitly tell the actor what was going on. So, it was up to the acting partners (Amber and I are acting partners, so we’re still caught somewhat in our comfort zones…) to be creative and come up with something that fit the dialogue, and use the art of acting to create direction and purpose in the scene.

stageAmber and I staged a thrift store confrontation that got a few good laughs, and being on stage wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it would be. We had a lot of fun getting up on stage and having Travis and the group give us some constructive criticism. And it was really great seeing what other people in the class came up with, particularly those who were more seasoned actors. Some took a more serious turn, while others kept it humorous, but no scene was anywhere remotely close to the last. It was great entertainment getting to see the different directions people took the scene, and I look forward to more of that as the class goes on.

In my last blog post, Setting your Resolution up for Success, I talked about New Year’s resolutions, and strategies on keeping yourself on track and sticking to your resolution. One thing I didn’t talk about was people’s comfort zones, and the value in forcing yourself to step out of that comfort zone, even if it scares the shit out of you.

As a fairly cautious person throughout my life, I’ve struggled with doing new things, usually reverting to the comfort of my couch or my home desk rather than branching out and doing something new and terrifying. But there is great value in doing new things, taking calculated risks, and challenging your own fears and insecurities.

With that, I challenge you, reader, to do something out of your wheelhouse this year. Try an acting class, or that martial arts class you’ve been wanting to take (that’s something else that’s on my to-do list), or step into the recording studio to spit those bars you’ve been tangling together for years, or train for that half-marathon you’ve been wanting to run. Whatever it may be, try something new that you’ve thought about before but never had the guts to try. You might just learn something about yourself.

I wanted to write this post toward the beginning of the 10-week class, and I plan to write at least one more post, if not several over the course of the class, about this experience.

So there will be more to come on this subject, and please comment below or email/message me about what you’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I would like to feature someone and their goal in a subsequent post!

Have a great rest of your week, everyone!

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