04 March 2011
This week's interview is with someone I have known for a very long time. This is my sister, the actor. I witnessed many of her early rolls, but I think her first formal part was in a silent movie in first grade. Caroline has been pursuing her passion for theater for most of her life. In the past few years she completed her MFA and is now making her way as an actor in New York. Although we have taken different creative paths, I know that Caroline's thoughts resonate with all kinds of creating. In this series, I wanted to share ideas from many different perspectives on creating so, of course I wanted to include my sister. I've included a couple of photos from shows that she has been in. I hope you enjoy!
You can read the previous interviews here.
Tell us a little bit about your work space
If I am working by myself on a role (as most of my creating happens in “the rehearsal room” with other people). I generally like to use studio space to explore on my own. I like a room with as little in it as possible or I will get distracted. Lots of space and some windows, a wood or carpeted floor, and a chair, bench, and table.
What goes on in there? I often do work on my own if I’ve encountered something in the rehearsal room that I want to explore more, or if I’ve come up against something that isn’t working. If I am working on finding the character I tend to start with the body first, to walk around the room and try to feel myself inside the physical character. If I’m having trouble finding the emotional depth of a moment, I try to dig deep into my own life to find material to draw on (this is the work I call the “rolling around on the floor and crying” work). All of the work I do on my own in a studio is a series of potential connections inside me, and whether they are apparent to other people when I rehearse doesn’t matter so much as whether I can connect to them at a deeper level when I need to.
What do you like about it/why does it work well? Well, the room is great because I can’t get too sidetracked. Of course I have to take lots of little breaks—the work is intense and it needs room to breathe.
What would you change about it if you could? Well, at this point I don’t have access to a space like this (without paying), so I would give myself a studio and a key. I would change my ability to be in this space right now! Right now I have to use my own room (which is very small) as this space, and it has too many distractions.
What motivates you to create?
Other people. Because theater is collaborative, it is important that my desire to be creative is fed by the people I work with—both inside the rehearsal room and in the world. I mean this in a broad sense: it can be a text that I read, it can be someone I see on the subway or overhear at a restaurant, a scene partner in rehearsal or a director, someone who makes me upset or happy or tired, or a work of art in a museum. Basically my work is all a reaction to a stimulus: so my creativity, while it ultimately must come from very deep inside me, is spurred by my surroundings.
What stalls or inhibits your creative process?
It’s hard to work alone as an actor. Since it is collaborative, my process is stalled when I don’t have people to work with.
Do you ever have doubts about your creations or creative process? How do you keep them away?
First and foremost is the lack of trust in myself and my work: the feeling that I don’t actually deserve to be in the room. But I have to move beyond this or I will be paralyzed. The next big challenge for my creative process is knowing how much work I need to be doing on my own. This changes drastically from role to role, and can be tricky to figure out. A friend used the analogy of holding a dove in your hands: if you hold it too tight (work too hard on a role, a project) you will kill it. But, if you hold it too loosely (don’t put anything into a role that needs work), it will fly away. I tend to hold too tight, so I am learning to reconcile all the things I think I should do with what I actually need to do to make working on a role the most successful.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people who want to create more or people who are trying to earn a living from creating? I think something important that I have learned as an actor is that I can never begin by focusing on the product of the work. If I do, then the work won’t actually happen. I need to get rid of any ideas I have about how the character should be performed or how the process will be. I have to enter into my ‘creative process’ with the willingness for everything I think I know about a role or a play to change and to be changed. I have to enter it with a sort of childlike innocence and curiosity every time. To allow myself to be surprised, and to follow the direction that the moment takes me, not to hold onto a potential result. This is much easier said than done.