Imaginary Workouts

No I’m not talking about all those sit-ups I do in my brain while my tukhus is firmly planted on my couch next to the bag of chips and guac that will be my downfall.  Nor the half marathon I imagine myself completing with nary a bead of sweat on my face.  No I’m talking about exercising the imagination muscle.  When we were kids, we used to play all the time, engaging our imagination at every turn.  Like every Catholic schoolkid, we played communion and used pickle chips for the host.  Star Trek was a big game in my family and my communicator was my rosary case that my grandmother had brought back from being blessed by the Pope in Rome.  I’m pretty sure she’d have a heart attack if she ever found out what I was using it for and my lack of veneration for it.   Cowboys and Indians were popular as was War and then of course we have Barbie and her fabulous life.  My brother used to get really mad at me for making GI Joe take Barbie out on a date but he had a car, Ken didn’t.  It may have been a Jeep that shot missiles my Mom promptly took away so we didn’t shoot our eyes out, but it was a car nonetheless and that trumps everything in the dating world.

I was reminded of playing pretend when I attended the Dan O’Day International Radio Creative and Production Summit last weekend in Los Angeles.  Dan always puts together a great weekend of really talented people and this year was no exception.  Richard Horvitz was leading a session on increasing your business by learning to play.  Using your imagination to flesh out who you were, where you were and what you wanted in the story.  He didn’t call it a script but a story.  That was an important shift right out of the box.  All scripts are stories, even the worst screaming/auto/retail script ever written, you just have to find it.  Once you find the story, you have to imagine who you are, where you are and what you want in the story.  You have to play pretend. Be willing to enter a second reality.  Kids do it so easily but once you grow into adulthood, out goes the imagination.  Like a muscle that’s been allowed to atrophy from nonuse, our ability to tap into our imagination gets harder and harder.  It takes practice to find it with ease.  Playing with kids is one way to do it.  But another is imagining what you’re not and then making it so.  Like saying I’m not blond, but I’m going to pretend I’m blond.  Going to the second reality again and again so it becomes easier each time.

Imagining I’ve got a flat stomach isn’t going to make it happen but seeing myself with that flat stomach makes the sit-ups easier to do.  So too will becoming that person in the story.  Now if I could just imagine my way to Warren Buffet’s fortune.

Remember to Play

The majority of what we do as actors and voiceovers, I would say probably 90% of the time, is look for work.  Seriously.  Even those that are in successful shows are looking for their next gig.  At last year’s Emmy’s, Kristin Chenoweth, who won for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy for the recently canceled Pushing Daisies, commented in her acceptance speech that she was once again looking for work so if anyone had anything, please call her .  The woman had just won an Emmy and she needed a job.  WOW.  How’s that’s for a reality check?!!

Because so much of our time is spent looking for work, we rarely get to do the work which is why we got in the business in the first place!  Our days are filled with cold calling, auditioning, connecting, marketing, and hardly ever with acting and performing.  Which is why a recent exercise I did was so important to me.  I think I’ve mentioned before that a group of like minded Voiceovers are banding together and organizing an unconference called Faffcon.  The name is a made up name derived from the British term faffing about which means goofing off.  An unconference is a meeting which is unstructured in that you don’t have a speaker droning on from a podium or a dais and you are sitting in a darkened auditorium and your only participation is passive.  Instead it is a collaborative meeting with everyone as a presenter.  Anywho, one of the multitalented members of the group, Peter O’Connell, was putting together a video to help potential attendees understand what Faffcon was all about.  He sent out a script and asked whomever was interested in participating to record themselves on a video camera doing the script.  Well this got my little noggin all stirred up with excitement.  Instead of doing the 3 takes of each line so Peter could cull the best for video, I chose to record several characters that happened to take roost in my brain.  I did the lighting, the sound, the costuming, make-up, and of course the acting in each one.  And let me tell you, I had a blast doing it.  I almost didn’t send Peter the takes because I was all in my head thinking about were they stupid or embarrassing but in the end, I sent them off with a smile.  Acting is about taking chances.

I needed to be reminded of how much fun it is to do what I do for a living.  I am so fortunate that I am able to play for my job.  I just need to remember to do more of the play while I’m doing all of the other stuff that has to happen so I can play more.