An empty swing dangles in the park under a cloud ridden sky. Inside the dusty clay studio, the potter's wheel spins with no master. The Starbucks barista asks "Where you been?"
"Getting my horror on!" I proudly say.
"Uh, ok." she replies and hurriedly refills the sugars.
It's true that I've been absent from my favorite haunts for weeks. I've been engaged in a far more engrossing activity: exploring my inner Hitchcock with Blue Light web series.
The series tells the story of Millie, a 1950s housewife, who comes home to find people from the future talking to her through her tv. One reviewer thus far has called the series "an excursion into Hitchcockian horror." Yours truly plays Millie, and, since this is an independent sci-fi/ thriller, I also take care of the cinematography, production design, craft services, and anything else my writer/ director husband is too busy to do.
It's been a terrifyingly fun experience thus far. Because I normally work behind the camera, I had to take an acting class to get my skills up to speed. (talk about facing your inner demons!) The jitters one may experience say, presenting their sculpture at an exhibition, are nothing compared to having to inhabit a character. Because my character, Millie, is in the middle of an emotional and mental collapse, I had to practice "breaking down" myself. It all started with me having to stand up in front of the class and scream to the top of my lungs at an ashtray. An ashtray.
"You're a stupid ashtray!" I screamed, at which point I passed along the ashtray to the next apprentice yeller. "S," the newest student in the class, shook the ashtray violently and bellowed "YOU SUCK!" Then, each student in the class took turns emitting what I can only describe as soul rending, ear shattering screams from the the depths of hell- all at this little ashtray. Afterwards, each smiled and chuckled a bit like they had just been told there'd be chocolate pudding for dessert.
How is yelling at an ashtray supposed to prepare one for portraying a character? I wondered. After class, as I watched the other students laughing and gathering up their scripts, "S" put her hand on my shoulder.
"Don't worry, " she said, "I'ts all part of the process."
"Process of what?" I asked.
"Of becoming less self-conscious. So you can be the person you're trying to be, you know, without worrying about what you think...or, like, what other people think."
I looked at her incredulously.
"It's all about being truthful, you know?"
At this point, I began to understand what "S" was talking about. In order to do a good job being "Millie," I had to to cast my own judgements aside. I can't accurately portray Millie, a woman unraveling to the brink of insanity, if I am too frightened to scream in public.
"What's next week? I asked.
"Blue Light" is currently available to be viewed on Youtube. (I'll put the link to the playlist below) Check back here for occasional updates about the project, news on the actors, production notes, and the inevitable blooper reel. You can watch and see the ashtray exercise at work!
Moore College of Art and Design article : click here