What is it, exactly?
Do you have talent? Do I?
Dictionary.com says talent is a natural aptitude or skill.
My voice teacher says talent equals passion.
I recently re-watched the 1998 movie Punchline (about standup comedy) starring Sally Field, Tom Hanks, John Goodman and a whole slew of other talented actors. A line in the movie goes something like, “Whatever your night job is, I hope it’s something you have a talent for.”
I’d love to hear your definition of the word ‘talent’ – please post a comment on the blog! In the meantime, here are a few conclusions I’m coming to, based on my personal experience.
I wasn’t a natural born actress. It seems I’ve always been more comfortable on stage than most people, maybe had “stage presence”, but that doesn’t mean I was a skilled (“good”) actress or singer. I needed to learn technique. After something like 14 acting class terms with Jo Dodge, I finally felt I had started becoming a proficient actress. I didn’t get serious about vocal training until I met Linda Brice in my 40’s and have no question I will be learning about my voice and singing for the rest of my life on Planet Earth.
For many years, I was too self-conscious to let loose. I had to learn to be okay with risking making a fool of myself. When two people with limited acting skills are doing a scene together, it can be like watching paint dry for the audience. But when one is skilled and the other not, the more skilled one can make choices.
Here are two examples from when I was an acting student, before becoming a voice and acting teacher:
When less skilled, I got paired up with the experienced and brilliant Robert Herzog for an improv scene wherein we were driving on a mountain road, he nearly drove the car over a cliff, and we had to figure out a way to get out of the car before it dove to its death, taking us with it. After we had our rough sketch of the improv together, he tricked me! Or changed his mind, one or the other. He had said, “I don’t think this one will work. Let’s let other people go.” And then volunteered us anyway! I was so stinking scared. But the minute I sat down in my “car seat” and “my husband” was fiddling with the radio and starting to sing, I fell right in line with him. I walked out of the Pentacle Theatre that day with a bruised knee from my fall to the floor, but it was one of the most effective and memorable improvs I’ve ever done. Robert carried me along.
When I was more skilled, I got paired up with a young, inexperienced actress whose character was my teenage daughter, having just gotten a swastika tattoo. The more angry I became, the less engaged my acting partner became, basically just a talking head. But when I became truly sad in my heart, started to cry and tried explaining to her what that symbol stood for, the actress became emotionally grounded and asked, “Mom, why are you crying?” That was the best moment in the scene. It was believable; for that moment I was able to carry her along.
Perhaps talent, along with natural aptitude, is the ability to be emotionally present and expressive. To learn the needed skills to be a conduit of the creativity that wants to express through you. And you cannot be afraid of making a fool of yourself, even though it may be super scary! Feel the fear and do it anyway.
I’ve not been a huge Adam Sandler fan in the past. But when I saw another old movie recently, Mixed Nuts, with Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, and another whole slew of talented actors…there Sandler is wearing a Venetian Gondolier type costume while making up and singing ridiculous songs on his ukulele. In no way was Adam Sandler afraid of making a fool of himself. And that’s exactly why it worked.
You can see me doing some of the same playing an older woman named Patty in Chapel Theatre’s production of Shine Strong the Moon. In this short 10-minute play, rehearsed and produced in just three weeks, I had to learn to use a walker on stage. I’m playing the last survivor in an assisted living facility where every other resident has died from the COVID virus.
I won’t see the recorded, edited show until you do, and don’t have the release schedule yet for the March 5-7 run. You can get your $20 tickets for all 11 plays here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chapel-theatre-play-festival-tickets-138640648913
If you like the show, give us a vote, will ya?
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Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,
Lake Oswego’s Transformational Voice® Teacher (Transformational Voice® is a registered trademark of Transformational Voice® Training Institute, LLC, and Linda Brice.)