acting · authenticity · discovery · performance · poetry

Performance Persona

The first week in May, a few things will happen. On the
Tuesday, I will be performing some of my poetry with my creative writing class in an end-of-semester performance in the actual theater at school – for somewhere
between 3-7 minutes. And on the Wednesday, I will be performing a scene with a
partner for my acting class final performance, where people will be invited in to
come see us.
This reflects back to me something I sort of already know about myself and my passions – I have a
hankerin’ for perfomin.’ Some folks do; some don’t. – I do.
In my creative writing class, we’re supposed to, or invited
to, work on a “performance persona.” I’ve been marinating on this, and not to
use what’s apparently become my catch phrase – “Yeah, but…” – I have realized
that so much of the work I’m doing and have been leading up to is to drop the
persona.
Most of my life, I’ve walked with a persona on of some sort
– the shy girl, the drunk wild girl, the promiscuous girl, the “nice” one. I’d
like to come back to center for a moment. Or longer.
Basically, I think that my greatest performance persona will
actually be my authentic self – that seems to me, for myself, for now, to be
the bravest person I can show you on-stage. Now, of course, it is performance, so it’s a bit of an amplified version
of self, but it’s not obscured, which I think is how I’d been before.
So, I love the intention, and think it’ll be simply fun to
play with a persona, that’s, to me, what acting is about, not performance
poetry. In acting, I am someone else,
with a different history, mannerisms, inflection. I am shy or wild or
promiscuous or nice, and I call on those parts of me that understand that
experience, but it’s also
acting.
An interesting distinction was made by my performance poetry
teacher on Tuesday between the two – he said that he likes to use the
microphone and the music stand still in his performances as opposed to without
it, as without it he thinks indicates theater, and with it indicates the
tradition of poetry and writing. I don’t know that I fully agree, but I
understand his point, and it was interesting to then ask myself what do I
consider the difference, if I’m using my own work?
What is performance poetry, and what is theater? Do I
consider them different if I’m speaking my own work? I actually think I don’t.
I think it’s, like I said, an amplified, perhaps more emphatic self, but I
don’t think it’s removed from the writerly tradition to not use pages and a stand. When I’ve performed…
there it is – I was intending to say “when I’ve performed my poetry in the
past,” and that’s what I consider it. I don’t really consider it “reading,”
unless, really, it’s reading.
Even when I stand with my papers in front of me, and a
podium and a mircophone at a poetry reading,
it’s still performance. This isn’t just “reading,” as I would read to you from
the phone book, or a text book. It’s enhanced, it’s intensified, it’s amped up
inflection and emphasis and meaning and pause. I want you to be moved to emotion. 
Seems like theater to me. 
Although, it’ll also be nice to let myself play with the
extremities of a performance persona, just to try it on and have fun with it (who doesn’t love a good wig) –
I still maintain that my boldest persona is just me, micced. 

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