Meyerhold Onto That Feeling

(This is an old post from an old, old blog I used to run. It seemed quite relevant to my work nowadays, so I wanted to repost things here. Written by Ericka Skirpan, 2013)

It has always been important to me, as a gamer and a storyteller, to live in the moment. Now, you may ask me: Ericka, how do I do that!? Ericka, I’m not an actor, I’m a gamer! I’m here to kill things, shoot nerf guns, or gain some delicious, glorious XP (and XP is glorious, for true)! Even when I want to act, it feels weird. Hell, I’ve had people even tell me that their worry about acting it right, or being believable, makes them worry even more about doing everything right. Their want to be in the moment is exactly what takes them OUT of the moment. It’s a shame. Part of the beautiful thing about gaming is that were not here to judge — we’re all here to play. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to win an Oscar, you just have to give it your heart and people are going to give it right back.

However, I recognize that pep talk of “You’re good enough, smart enough, kind enough, and, gosh darn it, people like you!” may not be enough to convince you that your lack of acting skills or experience isn’t actually hurting a thing. So, lets talk one of my strangely favorite ways to get in the moment when you simply aren’t there — Physicality. There is this strange sense in North American theater (though you can blame a lot of it on Stanislavsky) that true emotion, acting, brilliant characterization comes from the inside. You have to build the emotion in your mind and heart before displaying it to all of the world for it to  be believable. You know what? Wrong. Some people get there that way. Other’s don’t. The Method is just a tool. So lets talk about other methods.

Look at that sexy Russian shakin' up the theater scene... Vsevolod Meyerhold was a damned figure in a lot of theatre, yet his theories on physicality are impactful to even today. There’s a lot of heavy texts that you can pour through and half of it will be mind numbing, half just confusing, but there’s some real gems in there which I think are directly applicable to the LARP and improv experience. In summary — the physical will inform the emotional, not the other way around. If you go through the bodily actions of what you SHOULD be doing in a situation, eventually, muscle memory triggers things in your brain that makes you FEEL like you are in that situation. In fact, often, we physically react to something in life before we ever process that we are feeling anything. This is where he considers physicality to be far more important than what is happening emotionally behind the scenes.

The classic example he gives is running away from a bear, but since the lovely staff at Dystopia Rising has taught us that you never scream and run from a bear, I’ll update the example to a more accessible situation: You are a pedestrian on a crowded NYC sidewalk and a runaway MTA bus is coming right in your direction! Do you: 1. Stand there thinking: “Oh my god, this is scary! How frightened I am! Can you not see it on my face? I am going to scream now I am so frightened!” or 2. Run light speed the frak off that side walk, screaming and cursing out the driver the whole time?

I suspect your answer is number two. If it’s number one, the Darwin Awards are always accepting candidates. When truly emotional things happen to us we don’t THINK about them being emotional, we just react to them. The first thing you are going to do is run, scream and curse. You will get your body OUT of that situation as fast as possible and, afterwards, realize “Oh shit, that was fucking terrifying!” It’s only after the physical reaction do your bodies emotional reactions kick in. Now, that is an extreme example, but it happens all the time. If you are in a scene and you’re just not feeling it? Go through the motions anyway. Lean over, cry, cough, shake, scream, rail, run, punch a tree! Do whatever you think someone SHOULD do in that situation, physically, and you might end up finding yourself feeling it after all. Don’t hesitate because you’re not feeling it. Feeling will get there, often long after the moment is passed. DOING it will matter the world to you — and everyone else around you in turn.

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