I want to share a story about an actor's success. Weirdly enough (not), such good news in showbiz often unleashes tremendous anxiety, stress and insecurity. Go figure. Actors are running about the planet hungry for work, auditioning with heart and soul, and being rejected most of the time. Ouch. No mystery to hear rejection then becomes the norm. We are so programmed for disappointment that good news might not even make sense to our central nervous system; when that gig comes we are beyond overwhelmed. Frightened even. YIKES. That fear then takes its toll and robs us of a good time. Muscles bunch up, the performer freezes, stops breathing, stops listening and just stops playing altogether. Uh-oh. No fun here. O mighty Fortune, what now?
Meet Jenny, an exceptionally talented, charming and eager young actor, who has just been cast in a wonderful play that will be running for several months. Eureka. The gig that one dreams about has landed in her lap. Plucked from showcase drivel, she is now working in the Big League. And breathless with excitement (and just slightly freaked out), she shows up at my door for some Alexander lessons. Smart lady, Jenny. In her lessons we work to release that fear, that anxiety and insecurity which all have the potential to unconsciously disrupt her rich sense of fun and play.
How do Alexander lessons keep an actor ready to play? Well, lessons offer an opportunity to come out of old startle patterns that may be entrenched in our view of the world. Hard to have fun when freaked out. Much better to be open and available. Freeing our neck muscles is a surefire way to find that fabulous mojo running up and down the spine, that primal roadway going from our head through our neck and back. In Jenny’s case, her habit of staring up at the world locks her into a rigid “startle” pattern that grossly interferes with that primary control. Being all of 5’2” and ninety pounds wet, Jenny’s world is habitually defined by having to look UP rather than OUT. This habitual and unconscious movement of dropping the head back onto the neck puts unnecessary strain on the whole system; breathing, movement and alignment can all be greatly disturbed by such unconscious movement. So the game, if you will, is to take a habit out of the unconscious and make it conscious. And maybe, just maybe we might stop it. Voila. Life becomes a very different deal. In her lesson I help Jenny to allow for the release of her neck which then allows for her head to move a bit forward and up to the top of her spine. She happily noted the change. “Wow…this is a totally different way of being in the world.” BINGO. And for just a minute or two, this lifelong habit of diminishing herself is put to the side and she enters the room ready to play. Nice way to be in rehearsals for your first Broadway gig, wouldn’t you say?