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My Stanislavski

Here are a few pics from Taos–we had a gorgeous time, all 4 generations of us. Luciana is now obsessed with dogs (or “dah” as she says whenever we see one) thanks to Sam and Lucy, who she spent lots of floor time with.

The newness of what she does every day continues. Today was stacking the Stacking Cups inside each other. It’s been all about Taking Things Out for the last month or more, and now we seem to be shifting to Putting Things In. Her spoon in a cup and now these colored cups inside one another. She’ll work at it for over 5 minutes, succeed, immediately pull the cups apart, and spend 5 more minutes trying to do it again. I watched this awesome video on Janet Lansbury’s site and I thought of it this morning while Luciana was taking herself on the Stacking Challenge. When she had done it, she didn’t want me to applaud or give her a thumbs up, she just wanted to take her work apart and figure it out again. It makes me want to go do work for work’s sake because the challenge is so fantastic, not because I’m going to get some reward or someone’s approval after.

So of course she’s my teacher in a million ways—we always hear that about kids and it’s true true true. Before I became a mama, I imagined that being one would make me a better actor because I’d have lots of practice being present. True. And I’d be less attached because I had something more important to me in my life. True. But her communication is reminding me of something so essential to my acting work–and to communicating in life in general—that didn’t occur to me. 

Luciana is really vocal and always has been. When she was a tinier baby I knew generally what she was saying: she was uncomfortable, she was happy, she wanted something. And as she gets older, naturally her sounds expand and because she can make more sounds she can get more specific.  Last week Sky remarked that when Luciana makes a sound I know exactly what she wants, down to the specifics of a particular object she wants or a particular way she wants to be held or somewhere she wants to go. It’s kind of true. Not always, but often, what she’s saying with her voice and body are crystal clear to me. I don’t think this is because I’m some kind of mommy psychic. I do pay attention, that’s my part, but I’ve got this theory that the reason I know what Luciana wants is because she knows what she wants, and she is so committed to communicating it that she doesn’t need the English language.

So what she’s reminding me about my work is that I have to know exactly what I want and how I feel about that if it’s going to mean anything to people on stage with me and to the audience. I can’t just arbitrarily decide to get mad for no reason–because I think it will be “exciting” to do or to watch. If what I’m doing doesn’t ring true or deep for me, it’s not going to ring true or deep for the audience, and then what’s the point? We don’t get sucked into stories because they’re ok; we get sucked in because they resonate with us even if that resonance is outlandish humor– the humor usually comes from someone wanting something really badly. Luciana, through all the things she says without saying them, is a living breathing crawling standing squawking example of clear intention expressed with whole voice and body. Even with no words I get what matters to her; she gets to me at that level below the words, and wonderful artists do the same.  I don’t know the next time I’ll be auditioning or performing but I hope when I do I don’t get lazy, and I bring my pumpkin’s wisdom with me. Meanwhile I’m inadvertently memorizing “I am A Bunny” and creating all the voices I can for Boris the Bear, Wesleigh the Elephant, Clare the Cow and their consorts.

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