I don’t like people to see me cry. It’s personal, it’s private. And, just maybe, because my dad taught me how to box at age 6. As a street kid, he’d been a Golden Gloves boxer. So, there’d be me, my two sisters, brother and lots of little cousins, barely big enough to hold up those huge boxing gloves, dukin’ it out. My dad would growl, “Don’t you be a big sissy!” Of course my dad loved us and would crumple if anything happened to us, but he wanted us to be tough enough, girl or not, to stand up for ourselves. And thank God he did. He taught us spirit and tenacity. He pushed us to be confident and have pride in ourselves. It’s why I am who I am today.
Now you may be someone who likes to boohoo all over everybody, and that’s perfectly fine. I have no problem with that. But I don’t like anyone to see me cry. I’d much rather tell you a joke or, God forbid, trip you for comic relief.
Here’s my dilemma, I’m an actor. In A Working Group, my acting class, we’re now studying accessing emotions. Don’t laugh. According to Sally Allen, who is channeling Stanislavski for us, as an actor the four hardest emotions to access are joy, compassion, fear and sorrow. I can handle the first three; it’s the sorrow and crying that’s the problem. And, in auditions with a camera squarely in my face, I damn well better have truthfulness in whatever I do. I am learning that truthfulness and honesty are a major part in conveying the big four. So, how deep do I dig to get that wellspring of emotion? What do I reveal? Basically, how strange can it get?
When my husband and I were first dating, we went to see Paris, Texas at Sarratt Cinema on Vanderbilt campus. If you’re familiar with it, you’ll know the movie is fraught with angst. It is a saga of two star-crossed lovers who, in the end, are filled with deep regret and sorrow. I found my eyes filling with tears and emotion caught in my throat, but I refused to cry. Even there in the dark, I didn’t want anyone to see or hear me cry. Moment after moment, the film continued to build to a crushing, tragic, poignant end, yet I was determined not to cry. We barely made it outside the theatre when I totally lost it. Everyone from the theatre was calmly walking to their cars and I began deep, gut wrenching sobbing. I sobbed all the way across campus. I sobbed all the way down the long sidewalk and across the parking lot until we got in the car. Tears running, my voice breaking, trying to catch my breath between sobs, I kept saying, “Oh, that’s so sad!” “How could that happen?” “Do you see what they lost?” I was a mess. I’m not sure why my husband ever went out with me again, but at any rate, this is an example of what can happen.
I’ve been assured in my A Working Group class that it is possible to find the right balance, to not totally lose it. That each actor will find their own method in that balance. And when they do, they can embrace it, own it and that will help them work. I’m working on trust here, but all I can say is pray for me. It’s going to be my mountain to climb. But, I do know my dad would be proud of me for climbing this mountain, for keeping my chin up and trying. And he wouldn’t call me a big sissy. – By Martha Hannah