I’m in a show next week. That’s right – this time next week, I will be putting my hair in curlers, pulling on my best dress, slapping on the entire contents of my make-up bag and getting ready to sing and dance in Loughton Operatic Society’s production of The Mikado.
It isn’t the first show I’ve done. I’ve played a cat, a rich heiress, a hat shop owner, a shop girl, an actress (so I was an actress playing an actress who was playing someone else in a play – erk, my brain hurts…) and Galinda from Wicked. You can see some photos here. And the thing I’ve noticed about acting is that it’s a lot like writing. You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and pretend to feel things you don’t actually feel – for actors, this is so that you can fool the audience into thinking you are someone else, for writers, it’s often so that you can persuade the reader that they actually *are* someone else. So really understanding why your character is doing what they are doing is really important – how can I make you believe that I am someone else if I don’t know why they are behaving they way they are? It’s the same with writing – how can you believe in a character if the writer doesn’t really understand them?
The key element in both acting and writing (apart from the technical skills and talent bit) is something called empathy. Empathy is a bit like sympathy, where you feel sorry for someone because of something they are experiencing, but it goes further than that – empathy is where you put yourself into that person’s shoes, so that you feel the way that they feel. Empathy is a good thing to have because it helps us to understand other people.
The best thing about empathy is that you can get it from reading too, because when you read, you pretend to be the character in the book and feel what they feel. So acting and writing are very similar but reading is fabulous too. Next week, I’ll be doing a lot of them all. And the best thing is that I can say they are all work!