Monday, January 13, 2014

Emerging in Freehold Classes By Laura Nelson

Prior to taking Step I: Intro to Acting at Freehold in January of 2013, my experience of acting had been limited to being an audience member, engaging in whatever theatrics were required of me as a language teacher (ESL, French and Italian) or as a language student (most recently, Korean), and participating in the occasional “skit” for a friend’s birthday.

I did participate in a high school play once; I was a chorus member, a “mama”, one of several townspeople in a high school production of “Fiddler on the Roof” who did not have speaking roles; however, I was a 30-year-old faculty member at the time and the experience had petrified me. I came away, though, with a sense of the excitement and joy that clearly had drawn both my brother and my son to the stage. I got a sense, too, that the seemingly contradictory sensations of being petrified and being excited, thrilled, were most likely inseparable.

Nearly 25 years later, both my brother and my son having passed away within seven months of each other, I decided to explore acting in part to honor their memories and their shared passion. It was a way of staying connected. I did not know what I would find in an acting class, but I knew that I would learn about the craft they loved, and possibly more about the two of them, and myself, in the process. That was enough to get me into Step I.

It is impossible to overstate the transformative power of the intimacy I have experienced in all 3 of the Freehold classes I have taken so far. Steps I through III are called the “Emerging Series” for a reason; so many actor-butterflies emerging out of so many acting-class-cocoons. It’s not about transforming oneself into a completely different creature. It’s about creating, cultivating and nurturing creative spaces essential to natural change and growth. It’s about participating in the process of change.

In class, participating means you start where you are, with no experience, like me, or with a lot, like many of my classmates. You commit to being open and curious, to being present, to doing the work, to supporting other students, to accepting the instructor’s dynamic involvement in whatever form it takes throughout the process, and voilĂ ! You’re an actor-butterfly! Ok, maybe not. But the cocoon-class environments created by Freehold’s staff are real ones; they are safe, intimate, judgment-free, exciting, challenging, encouraging, and, I repeat, transformative.

I have emerged from each of my Freehold classes (Step I: Intro to Acting with Stefan Enriquez, Step II: Acting with Text with Meg McLynn, and exploring Solo Performance with Marc Kenison) changed, more awake, to myself, to others. Oddly, feeling both more solid and lighter. I have learned how to access feelings and react truthfully – on stage and in real life – with more grace, using elements beyond those provided to me solely by my brain. I have learned that in addition to my brain, where I have been hanging out for decades, I have a body that can be used to communicate in more ways than I’d previously imagined.

And I am still emerging. What we are emerging from is ourselves. Again and again and again.

Freehold's Winter Quarter classes are now open for registration.  More information on Winter Quarter classes HERE.

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