It’s The Note After…

It’s officially October.

Until now, the change into October meant Halloween, fall, and, of course, pumpkin spice lattes. This year, October takes a new meaning.

I’ve been in grad school for one whole month. I’ve met some incredible people and we’ve all already experienced so much together. Cohort 18 is full of fascinating, beautiful, intricate, and irreplaceable people, as is the rest of the Actors Studio Drama School. From the second we were addressed by Dean Emeritus James Lipton and Ellen Burstyn on the first day of orientation, it was clear that this is not just a school. This is a home. I couldn’t tell you the last time I felt so welcomed into a new space. I was excited to get started, but I had no idea that getting started was in and of itself one of the most unforgettable moments I’ve ever known. In the past month, I’m beginning to feel like someone I can be proud of. That’s not to say that I was unhappy with myself before, but I’m beginning to really get to my own core, my own soul. People I’ve encountered have told me that all they foresee acting students doing at the graduate school level is breathing exercises and crying for hours on end. It’s so much more. The breathing exercises do happen every day, of course. But I’ve learned so much about my craft and myself in the past month that to try to begin any sort of explanation would be an injustice. Each and every class serves a purpose to produce a well-rounded artists – not just a cookie-cutter Hollywood type, but a fully 3-dimensional person. A person that has the tools and the knowledge to recreate life on a daily basis within the art. Each day is full of discoveries that are unfathomable.

Part of being a student at the Actors Studio Drama School is being granted the privilege to attend tapings of Inside the Actors Studio. This evening, we had the honor of hosting Sting. He took us through his entire life story and told us a lot of little anecdotes about his childhood and his marriage and his career. When questioned about failure, he said something that stuck with me. Instead of seeing a mistake as a failure, he focused on “the note after.” This isn’t to say he only meant it with the musical definition of a note. But rather a metaphor for what comes in the wake of missing your mark. It isn’t about the fact that you fucked up. It’s about what you take away from it. It’s about how you apply what you learned in that moment about what didn’t work and about how to make it more successful the next time. It’s about allowing yourself to be human.

This is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I truly am my own worst critic. I can’t just let myself be. I can’t ever accept when something has gone awry at my hand. I feel guilt and remorse and the spiral of self-hatred begins. That spiral began somewhere around the second week of this semester. As happy I was, I didn’t feel like I was progressing fast enough. I noticed all these other breakthroughs around me and I still felt the same. I was cold and numb. I tried my best to let it all happen and absorb it. But it wasn’t happening fast enough. For me, at least. Even after talking about this with Elizabeth Kemp, my basic technique teacher, I still felt like I was blocked. “Keep doing the work,” she said. “It’ll happen.” She was right. It’s a slow process, but I feel the ice starting to melt. And it feels good. I’m starting to just trust my instincts and not judge them.

I’m seeing what Sting meant. Just because one note may not work doesn’t mean the next one will suck. It means it will be sweeter and more meaningful. He also made a comment about patience. “If I’m patient, the next great project will come.” This is from a man who took an 8-year hiatus from writing his own music and now as a full-blown Broadway musical set to open. That alone speaks for itself.

So, I guess what this all boils down to is that while the leaves around me are changing, I’m beginning to shift with the season. I’m opening up the floodgate and I’m starting to reap the rewards of not giving a shit about what comes out my mouth or if I cry or laugh. It’s safe to say that ASDS is probably the greatest thing to happen to me thus far. I’m only a fraction of the way through and there’s still so much more to come.

So I will live from note to note and every 8 bars will be something new. And it’s perfect.

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