I got a new script in my hand ten days ago. Those crisp, new pages. Unmarked by highlighters and pencils. Un-crinkled by countless read throughs and awkward juggling as you to try to act on your feet with it in hand. Just waiting to be worked on, calling out for attention.
But I had none to give! My Dad was visiting, so everyday we were out in the London streets, trying to decide which pub served the best fish and chips (we never came to conclusion… the food comas that always followed tended to cloud our judgement). So there my pages sat, probably blowing a bit on my desk by the breeze of my open window.
We also took a quick trip up to Edinburgh. I thought to myself, “Perfect. An almost five hour train ride? Plenty of time to start my work!” Did it happen though? No. I chose instead to have my headphones on and watch the scenery fly by. I let my imagination take hold of me as the sea and its coast got closer and closer. It stayed in my backpack. At this point, it probably was getting a little bit crinkled… obviously not for the right reasons.
The first night we were in Edinburgh, after trying some haggis, we hiked up a wee mountain to Arthur’s Seat. It was right at sunset, and the peak offered a view of the entire medieval city. My Dad’s a photographer, and I’d learned that he can take up to half an hour in a single spot taking pictures. So I sat down near a ledge and settled in with my pages. That was my true introduction to my new project.
First impressions are all important. I’ve read in more than one acting book that really, your first reading of a script ought to be in a place where you can focus: quiet, alone, and distraction free. I think I’d have to disagree. Granted, I did wait until I felt it was the right time to read it. I just knew there’d be something about sitting up there that really stirred my imagination. Maybe it was luck, because Tuesdays and Sundays kind of calls to mind really picturesque landscapes. But really, isn’t imagination our key tool as actors? Shouldn’t we try to always find stimulation for it?
How do you train your imagination?
I’ve always been an imaginative kid, I like to think. I have very vivid memories of playing flower fairies, secret spies and, on less exciting days, house and family. These ideas came from the books that I read and the movies that I saw. There was something that I liked and that I latched onto and expanded on. Flash-forward some 15 years to the train ride I just took, and what was I imagining? Romantic encounters, a flourishing career, an escape to the seaside that I saw.
These ideas of success in work, life and love must have come from ideals I’ve again read about or seen.
From real life examples too, maybe? From the seaside itself? From my own quick encounters with success and real love?
So what’s the answer to developing your imagination?
Here’s a thought: get out there and have adventures. Have experiences.
Now that I’m a “grown up” and had more encounters, it’s like my imagination has matured. Its boundaries have expanded because my experiences have expanded. The times I’ve felt most inspired and most creative have been when I’ve seen things: wandered around museums, traveled to a new country or heard new stories from an old friend. My brain is just set on fire and I feel the need to write, or go back to a character and see if I can see something new in them. Maybe the story I’ve just heard is one that my character has experienced too, and has kept secret from others. I love when characters have secrets…
When I read my new script for the first time, it was my imagination that brought it to life. It takes place on PEI, where I’ve spent a bit of time every summer. The winding roads, tranquil rivers and red dirt are all things that I know intimately. Needing to go back there to play my part excites me about my part. I’ve got so much enthusiasm for the project, which makes me want to work on the project and do a helluva job.
New job description for me as an actor: an experientialist. Did I just make up that word? Yes, I think so, but I think it encompasses everything. The word itself makes me excited.
I’m now imagining myself as an out of work actor. I’m taking classes to keep sharp, but more than that, I’m going out into the world and discovering new things. New experiences.
God I love my job. To live life to the fullest to recreate it in its fullest.
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