Only about six hours left until the premiere of "Salemia," an event that has been eagerly awaited in Oregon's capital -- by those involved with the film, at least -- since the notion of a response to "Portlandia" was birthed from the fertile comedic mind-wombs of local filmmakers Mike Perron and Dave Jenkins.
(Check out Part 1 of an Q & A interview by Emily Grosvenor with Mike and Dave on her Desperately Seeking Salem site.)
After shamelessly sucking up to Mike and Dave through a series of fawning blog posts, and stammering through an audition last February at a "Salemia" casting call, I was thrilled to get a small role as a crusty transient, the precise smallness of which will be revealed at the premiere this evening -- 7:45 pm, Grand Theatre, advance tickets available at Travel Salem or Salem Cinema.
Checking out recent Twitter tweets from "Salemia" cast members, it's obvious that a certain amount of utterly understandable nervousness is in the air, or more accurately, the minds of amateur actors having yin/yang emotional anticipations:
It'll be wonderful to see myself in the film
It'll be horrible to see myself in the film
Well, what I've learned from my involvement with "Salemia" is that being concerned with wonderful and horrible is a creative process downer.
As a writer/author, I knew this already. But my brief acting experience in front of a camera hammered home that lesson in a fresh fashion. Driving home after the filming on a cool, rainy April day, my inner critic kept telling me You could have done better; why didn't you do/say X instead of Y?
After awhile I told my alter (or super) ego, Shut the fuck up! Sure, I would have liked to do some things differently, to relive certain filming moments. But moments never can be redone or relived. Life only happens once.
To look back is to miss the present moment. Art is about what's happening now, fully expressing what is present in that happening moment.
And not only art: life as a whole. For example, I'd love it if Salem was a cooler, hipper, more energetic and interesting place than it is. "if's" aren't reality, though. Only "is" is (at the risk of sounding like BIll Clinton).
What we have to deal with is what can be expressed now. Our only choice is how fully to engage ourselves.
My old friend, synchronicity, paid a visit this morning as I was reading "How to Believe in Nothing." Here's a story by author Michael Misita that resonated with my inner aspiring actor, as also with my inner aspiring liver of life.
Expressing one's self can be frightening for most people. I remember an acting class I attended many years ago in New York City. The two actors on stage were doing one of the most boring scenes I had ever witnessed. It wasn't the fault of the material they were performing; it was them.
"What do you think you're doing up there?" the teacher asked them.
After a long pause, one of the actors shyly suggested, "Acting?"
We all laughed.
"We're trying to be real," added the other actor. "I don't want to over-act."
"What do you people think real is?" the teacher inquired. "Certainly not the behavior most people display in their everyday lives. Out there, everyone is repressed, and you think that is an example of real life? As actors, it is our responsibility to express ourselves in a way that everyday people do not because they are too self-conscious. You're not here to be self-conscious. A little over-acting would do you a world of good and hold your audience's attention a whole lot more. They don't pay to come to the theater or go to a movie to see what they can see in their everyday lives. They come to the theater to feel something. They come to see someone express themselves in a way they feel they cannot. Everyone wants to express himself but almost everyone is deathly afraid to do it."
There was momentary silence in the room, then the teacher said, "Now, start the scene again, and for God's sake, give it some life. Take some chances, show some passion, stop playing it safe. Express yourselves!"
Great advice. Mike and Dave have done just that with "Salemia." Kudos and congratulations to them. May all Salemites be inspired to follow in their creative footsteps and do as advised above:
Take some chances, show some passion, stop playing it safe. Express yourselves!
This is what Salem needs. Heck, this is what we all need.