After my confusing encounter with the Method early on, I found myself suspecting that perhaps maybe I just wasn’t not cut out for it. I would try other methods of acting before discovering the beauty of it a few years later.
It was around 2011. when I decided to jump on the hipster actor train and I joined UCB to study improvisation. I went all in, opening my mind and immersing myself in the training. I really really enjoyed the philosophy of “Yes and-ing”, which I found invaluable not only for acting but also in life. For those unsure of what I’m talking about, it simply means that whatever your scene partner throws your way – you play along with it and instead of arguing or contradicting their idea, you mentally and physically say yes to it, and then build and expound upon it further. It forces you to let go of your preconceived notions of how the scene will go. It forces you to rely upon your instincts and imagination to carry you through the scene. It really gets your adrenaline going. I remember the anxiety of stepping on the stage not knowing what’s about to happen or what I will say or do, and then being stunned by the speed and sharpness of my instrument in how it was responding to any given. Before that, I hadn’t quite believed that things could go well unless I pre-planned or rehearsed them. LOL. I liked that game so much that I even got a gig touring the schools as the improv comedienne for a while. I was happy with my experimentation – what other methods of acting would I try? Yes and!! At one point, I felt so playful that I even cut my hair asymmetrically.. my hairstylist kept snapping pics of me because she couldn’t believe – see pic below for proof:
So as I started discovering the silly, spontaneous, uninhibited actress Petra, I signed myself up for the Clown School at the New York Studio, where my teacher was incredible Lucas Rooney. Now, THAT was a challenge. I think that class released me from the inside more than any other class up until that point. We were encouraged to go all out. All out, then heighten it and make lighthearted fun of it. Let your vulnerability be on total display. For someone who was so obsessed with self image and how others perceived me back then, this was a mental struggle. I had to make a resolution. Either you’re in or you’re out, no half-ass-ing it. And I knew that. Intellectually. I still thought I could be 90% free and 10% controlled… Nope. So I let go. Something profound started shifting within me… Once I offered myself to the audience like that and didn’t try to pre-defend myself from ridicule and rejection, the amount of mental liberation I began to discover was so intoxicating that I have been unable to go back to being such a fearful perfectionist. Fuck perfection. I just wanted to learn more! The better I got, the more curious about other methods of acting I became. The goal was to shorten the span between immediate impulses I’d receive during acting and the time my instrument would just freely go with them.
I enrolled in scene study class with Anthony Abeson, with whom I would stay for the next two years. Super useful. I was encouraged to bring ANYTHING my heart desired to the stage – so I played around with playing Carrie’s mother (hahaha – yes, that crazy woman), and a lot of Bergman and Polanski. I was getting more and more confident, especially as I kept getting amazing feedback from colleagues and industry professionals.
Then I tried a BUNCH of short term classes with famous and not so famous casting directors, commercial and feature. I don’t know if you could classify those as methods of acting, but they included character breakdowns, dressing for the part, reading with a wall instead of a live partner to prepare for the flat readers in auditions, etc. I ended up confused instead of enlightened though. I realized that everyone has a very subjective outlook on what good acting is, and what they were searching for. I had one (big name) casting director literally feed me line by line in the audition, and she wasn’t happy until I had completely mimicked her performance and tone. Then she decided it was perfect. 🙂
Fast forward to last year… I met a legendary teacher who changed my life and eventually led me to the teacher (genius) I work with now… That deserves a separate post. I wouldn’t wanna shortchange what happened to me as a result, personally and professionally, by squeezing it into two sentences.
So for now… much love until next Thursday