How would your life be different if you were just a little like your favorite sit com personality? If you could be any sit com character, who would it be? First character who comes to mind, write it down. That’s me, above, with my “serious librarian” expression. For some reason men seem to really like this picture. Who knew? Probably because they love reading. I prefer the really funny “characters.”
I want you to know I am writing this even though I am in a world of pain (tore something in my back, thank you). This just goes to show you can do something if you really put your mind, and in this case, body into it. I’m generally a “push through it” kinda person (which I don’t necessarily recommend),. But, when you do something you love, you don’t feel the pain as much or even not at all. You can focus on something other than the pain! Above all, listen to that precious body of yours.
So, after resting my injured back, I did what would be fun, distracting and uplifting. I transformed myself into “Aunt Kitty: Your Un-intentional Life Coach,” answered Dear Aunt Kitty questions and made YouTube videos. Kinda like Dear Abby meets Dr. Phil. SO MUCH FUN. Links will take you to some clips. (Feel free to send me a question for Aunt Kitty.) You’d be amazed at the wisdom that comes out of this funny lady).
See here, I got Aunt Kitty all dressed up for her video debut. Aunt Kitty likes a “splash of color.” I dressed her up in a neon green top, multi flowered colored pants (which don’t even show, but I know they’re on, you’re welcome), a multi colored scarf tied up in her hair, a very bright peach lipstick and some colorful reading glasses. Aunt Kitty lives! I love an acting opportunity, especially when it allows me to become an eccentric character. Kitty is teaching me how it feels to say it like it is, be forthright, unafraid yet loving all the while. She’s a hoot! And very smart. (She must have been listening at all those self help seminars I attended!) Another opportunity at acting!
I’ve been doing theater, acting, since I was in 6th grade. Ice skating for Hans Christian Anderson was my debut, not much talking, but don’t underestimate how hard it is to ice skate on Reston Elementary School flooring. I had been dreaming about being on the stage since I was a wee tot. (Hello Scotland!)
Anyhow, my next foray into theater was teaming up with my pal Lori Durso and writing our own version of The Wizard of Oz. She played the Lion and I played Dorothy. How I wish we had personal video cameras back then, I would love to see us now. Although, maybe my imagination is better.
My favorite scene was when I, as Dorothy, is running around the stage as the twister started to blow, yelling, “Auntie Em, Uncle Henry.” With our big time budget, we had fashioned a window out of construction paper, got a fan, and used baby powder for the visual of the tornado. So, as I ran by, my back stage friends started the fan, then threw the paper window and baby powder in my general direction. The result: The window flew back and forth and gently glided to the floor. Seeing it on the ground I had to think quickly. So, I pretended to fall, and did my best trip and fall impression. And the baby powder landed on my head. Very realistic as you can tell. But, I hit the wooden stage so hard my director jumped out of her seat and gasped, thinking I was really hurt. Anything for acting!
My next great stage adventure was playing the mouse in Alice in Wonderland, which my daughter would do years later and make me laugh as she did her knock, knock jokes. “Who’s there? Banana .(Banana who?). Who’s there? Banana (Banana who?) Who’s there. Orange. Orange who? Orange ya glad I didn’t say Banana.” Of course our own children are always brilliant on stage.
Then onto middle school where “impromptu acting” was required. My first play in 7th grade was, Any Body for Tea, a mystery. Several old ladies discover that a handsome man lives right across the street, and he’s a detective. So, one by one the elderly gals poison their roommates to force an investigation, a home visit, from the handsome detective.
Opening night one of my co-stars had such stage fright that when she hit the stage she opened her mouth to speak and nothing came out. She completely lost her voice. It was shocking. So, I jumped in and said her first line. And her second, and her third…. I ended up taking all her lines and would, on the fly. The hardest part was turning the dialogues between she and I into monologues, but I did it, saying things like, “I’m sure you would say” or “I know you’re thinking…” Acting is a team sport. My director was so proud of me. Thank god I had a good memory (back then).
But, that is what I love about theatre, it is never the same show and you NEVER know what is going to happen, including having a fellow actress go instantaneously mute due to stage fright. (For those wishing to give it acting, this malady is very uncommon. Go for it! Generally it’s really scary right before and during your first line and after that it’s a blast). Having someone drop a line is pretty common and you cover for one another, but totally losing your voice, now that is an experience even a memory challenged old person like myself will never forget. Talk about adrenaline. Join an improve group, that’s so much fun.
So whether I’m onstage, performing live in a theater, in my living room, a video or on tv show (and now on YouTube) I love the art of acting. Honestly, I feel more at home on stage or in front of a camera than anywhere else. I enjoy working with my fellow actors, collaborating, laughing, and crying and getting to know a new character or reconnect with a favorite one. Whenever I watch a really good play I find myself crying at the end when the actors come on stage and take their bows. (Hmm, hint from the universe?) Do what you love!
OK, remember at the top I asked you who is your favorite sit com character? (I eventually get back to my point. Well, usually. If I can remember what it was. What was it, oh yes…)
When you think about that character you most love or who came to mind, what is he or she like? Shy, bold, brassy, eccentric, funny, what? How are you like that person or not like that person? Write down their characteristics and compare to you and who you’d love to be, or fall in love with. You may find there is an inner Kramer, Phoebe, Shelton, “Just Jack”, Wil or Grace just dying to get out! I encourage you to find an outlet to explore this inner character, maybe meet your alter ego. My secret wish, top of my bucket list is to do a great sit com with amazing actors, as long as I can be just as amazing. So, find your niche, play, have fun, do your thang!
Taking on a character, I just love it. I get to meet me in difference incarnations. For instance, when I played the witch in Bell, Book and Candle I got to be un-apologetically eccentric. Or Betty, in The Foreigner (above), I’m the sweet, simple, little old lady who is stage struck by the foreigner who comes to visit, feeling like her forgotten dreams of traveling the world have come true. She finds meaning once again and stands up to neighbors (in white robes) who judge him due to his foreign roots. Maybe be particularly releveant right now. It’s also one of the funniest and most meaningful plays ever, go see it if you can. Or audition!
Then there’s Georgianne, from Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. She is pining over her high school crush and admits to a one night drunken hook up with him in her adulthood. She says one of my favorite all time lines, “We did it. Right behind the dumpster. It was incredible. I will never, ever smell garbage again without thinking of him.”
So whether it’s through a play or an improvisation opportunity, writing a letter from the position of your alter ego (to yourself), or making a YouTube video, let your inner character come out! It’s so freeing and really fun. Or just explore the personality of your favorite character and see if you’d be willing to let a little of that into your life. If you’re anything like me, you’ll crack yourself up.
Barbara, the character actress
Your Intentional (attrice caratterista) Life Coach
PR expert and author of Feeling Loved, A Ted E. Bear Story