The kids in the PBS documentary (My Shakespeare) were having trouble. They weren't actors. They had never read or seen Shakespeare. They had no hope of success in any tangible way. But after a month of intensive rehearsals and constant guidance/encouragement from filmmaker/actor/director Paterson Joseph, they pushed through adversity (thank you ESPN, for that phrase) and connected to their characters, wrenching emotions like love, lust, and betrayal from their souls and getting them out on stage.
An actress friend of mine once told me that she had to stop acting because the ability to access and control emotions, though she could do it, was too much for her. She couldn't stop feeling them after the scene ended. I think this kind of direct access to and control of emotion is necessary for all art. But writing isn't a performance. It's just always there. So if you're attuned to your emotions when you're writing, if you're ripping your heart out, when and how do you put it back in?
Last night, I caught American Beauty on TV, uninterrupted, unedited. I remembered going to see it in the theatre with Jane, when it first came out, when she still lived here, when she made me go see the best films. Afterwards, we clutched each other and sighed with overwhelming wonder at the Wes Bentley character: how gorgeous, how real. The plastic bag dancing in the wind. We probably cried.
It's so easy (too easy?) for me to access my emotions. It's wrangling them into art that pins me to the couch. What good is all that emotion with no means to get it on the page? So I'm up all night, feeling stuff, staring into the night, the flickering television casting a frantic shadow in my bedroom, wondering what to do.