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Saturday, March 23, 2019

My Experiment with Method Acting

Backstage rehearsal

It’s less than a week until the opening night of the play I’m in.

Did I tell you I’m playing a school counsellor? I’m really getting into the role. I’ve even found myself counselling people in real life. I know I’m not officially qualified, but I’ve started to think of myself as a ‘Mother Earth’ type of counsellor; you know, wears kaftans, drinks kombucha tea and smells like lentils.

In true Stanislavski fashion, I’ve taken to dressing the part and wearing a batik headband on stage.

It’s called ‘method acting’ in case you didn’t know.

“You mean like Daniel Day Lewis?” asked Scotto after I explained to him why I was holding a serious mediation session with the cat and our new sausage dog over territorial rights involving the scratching post. 

“EXACTLY like Daniel Day Lewis!” I replied. “I won’t be eschewing a shower for the next three weeks, learning to speak Czechoslovakian or wheeling around the IGA in a wheelchair, BUT, I am going to start wearing batik headbands and telling people how to run their lives.”

The other day at school is a perfect example. 

One particular little boy, Puck, displayed a distinct lack of enthusiasm when we were trying to get the kids to form committees.

“Puck,” I called him over to my desk. “I’ve noticed you haven’t nominated yourself for a committee.”

“Yeah,” he blinked at me, his lip curled indifferently.

“Yeah, Mrs Poinker!” I corrected him brightly, smiling in my most counsellorish manner.

“Now Puck, what seems to be the problem? Why don’t you want to be in one of our lovely committees?”

Puck stared into the distance. His expression seemed to communicate a certain ennui, almost as if he wished a plague of locusts would descend on his annoying teacher devouring her down to the bones until all that was left was a pile of white powder and a wedding ring.

“But Puck, my dear boy, research shows that children who learn to work in a team grow up to be more productive adults. We want to help you on your journey of self-realisation.”
Puck's eyes rolled to the ceiling.

“Now look Puck, what about nominating for the Environment Committee. You could help save the planet! You could stop climate change in its tracks! You could be an eco-warrior!” I enthused.

“You mean, I’d get to empty the classroom bins on Thursday,” he replied glumly. “No thanks.”

“Listen, Puck,” I smiled again, “My door is open on this issue but we need to move forward together. What about the Assembly Committee then?”

“I hate all the committees,” he rocked back on his chair in revulsion. “I’m not a committee person.”

“I sense some hostility, Puck,” I said in a sweet tone. “We are workshopping this together. No one is the boss here. We are on an equal footing, you know. 

By the way, stop rocking in your chair or you’ll stay in at lunch time.”

“I don’t want to be on a committee. I think committees are dumb,” he said, resting his chair back on the carpet reluctantly. He picked up a paperclip and began shaping it into a dagger with his fingers.

“Puck, Puck, Puck,” I warbled gently. “Let’s talk about why you hate committees. Have you had a bad experience with committees before this? Let’s dialogue this, Puck. I’m here to listen. Let’s get in touch with your inner child.”

“I am a child,” Puck glared at me.

“And how’s that working for you?” I asked compassionately. 

“Listen Puck, you have to apply your oxygen mask first! You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs! There are plenty more fish in the sea! It doesn’t matter If you win or lose. It only matters that you tried!”

Puck squinted at me warily over his glasses and wriggled anxiously in his seat.

“What doesn’t kill us only makes us sad and afraid it will happen again, Puck,” I said, leaning forward and gazing at him with what I thought was an empathetic glint in my eye. 

I stayed silent because I know what a powerful counselling tool silence can be. I stared and stared and waited and waited.

Puck stood up suddenly, “Okay, okay, Mrs Poinker. Whatever you want. I’ll be in the Assembly Committee if you want. I’ll be in any committee you want!” 

He placed the pointy paperclip carefully on my desk, inching backwards and glancing behind him in search of an escape route.

“Great!” I grinned. “I knew you’d see the light.”

My first success as a counsellor.

I have this method acting nailed.