Everyone, everywhere, is performing, to some extent. But I want to be specific here and outline a difference between acting and performing.
I used to act, quite literally. In high school and in the beginning of college, I was in shows. I thought I was pretty good, and indeed one of my directors, when I ran into him in NYC a bit later, said to keep going. "You've got something," he said.
But I'm not a very good actor. By this I mean pretending to be something I'm not. I am a terrible chameleon. Whatever Daniel Day-Lewis is, I'm the opposite of it. I can try to be things I'm not - and we all do, from time to time - but I'm awful at it.
I am thinking about this because, as reunion the 10th approaches (well, already started but I'll be there tonight - omg), I reflect on why I rubbed so many people the wrong way when I first got there. And it's because I was trying to be someone I wasn't. I've said this before, but it makes more sense to me now as I realize how terrible of an actor I am.
I mentioned performing before. It turns out, I'm an excellent performer. When I bring myself into my performances, I excel. The audience goes with me. It always works when I find a way to believe in what I'm selling and my zeal is visibly genuine and effective.
I don't want to diss cheerleading, which is very hard. But I think, much of the time, a lot of cheerleaders are probably acting, in that they might not really care that much about the team on a given night. And that's their job, so they do it well. I could never (aside from not being fit or pretty enough, lol). I am terrible at selling things I don't believe in.
That's not entirely true. I can role-play just fine. When I have my students practice, I can pretend to be an angry client and I'm funny. But it only works in the context of a larger whole. I couldn't actually convince someone I was a single father trying to figure out his child support.
When I got to college, I was 17, confused, and scared. I should have asked for advice, but didn't have any slightly older friends to lean on the way I should have. So I guessed that being some sort of boastful Stifler guy was what would work. I should have waited around for the 4th American Pie movie, where it turns out Stifler is basically unemployable and nobody ever wants to spend time with him and everything is really sad. People don't like guys like that, especially if, despite also being scared teenagers, they can tell you're putting it on.
But it was acting. And I finally stopped acting, in college, when I joined TFC, where I could just be an overly excited dork all the time.
Over the years I grew and matured and focused, and my actual skills emerged. And now, in my career, as I set off to make a big presentation before going down to Princeton, I realize my greatest strength is the fact that I am a ball of genuine and unforced energy, and that it comes across when I teach or present or train. I never yell, and I've come to terms with my high-pitched voice and lack of stature, because I nevertheless have stage presence.
I hope that, tonight and tomorrow, I can finally relax and let the person I am in the classroom re-introduce himself to that campus instead of backsliding like I have before. I think it's high time I stopped acting around my classmates and that they get to know, even if only for a day, the guy who isn't a scared 17 year old anymore and can really command a room.
I am sure they never thought I'd be this person, and neither did I. But while my director may have wanted me to continue acting, he wasn't wrong that to assert that I had "something." I just only recently figured out what that something is.