This morning, just as every morning, I got the privilege to see the sun rise up over the horizon as I traveled down the freeway. Driving at four o?clock was never much fun, but had become a part of my everyday life. In precisely fifty-five minutes I would reach the film studio, at which I was to spend every day for the next two years of my life working at. Filming a movie always took so long. However, when it comes to acting, time is not an issue. Acting had become the foundation of which I lived my life. I eat, sleep, and breathe acting. I?ll never forget the first time I ever performed.
?Who wants to try out for a part in the class play?? asked Mrs. Graham, my kindergarten teacher. Play? I wasn?t quite sure what that word meant. She told us we would be on stage in front of our parents telling about how we should clean up the world. I raised my hand, I?m not sure why, probably because everyone else did. She called on me and told me to say, ?Look at all this trash!? loud enough for everyone to hear. I can?t recall what happened next; for my memories of age five are very short. I do remember the night of the play though. The stage was littered with trash; a garbage can as the centerpiece. My mom said I did ?good?. Though I really enjoyed it, I sort of forgot about the whole acting thing, and my career was in remission for the next few years.
Driving in her blue Volkswagen Bug, my older sister Karrie told me I should audition for her high school play. I was only in fourth grade then, and this idea seemed ridiculous to me. Gresham High was putting on The Sound of Music and she thought it would be neat to have a ?real-live? kid as the youngest girl, Gretel. I ended up trying out and got the part as Gretel after all. It was quite the experience to be around high school kids everyday after school. I felt so big and mature. But of course, the greatest thing about it was the acting. I never knew I could have so much fun being on stage acting, singing, and dancing. After the play was finished I knew this is what I was going to do forever; act.
Many others plays followed the one in fourth grade. One in particular sticks out in mind. I was a freshman and this had been my first lead, or starring, role since kindergarten. It was opening night, my face was caked in bright make-up; it had to be this way so I wouldn?t look pale under the lights. When the curtain opened, the lights shone so bright I couldn?t see a single member of the audience, but I could hear the movements and low whispers of the people that existed in the darkness. The air seemed hot and thick, and stank of various smells. A child chewing strawberry bubble gum sat in the front row, or so I presumed. Everyone?s eyes were on me, anticipating my first move, the move that would send the play on its way. Feelings of excitement, nervousness, and eagerness ran through my head; then I delivered the first of the many lines I had spent weeks before memorizing, and the play had begun. I moved around the stage like I had for the past two months. As the play went on, I heard the audience laugh and applaud.
There was a connection between the audience and us. We were sending them a message, and they took it merely as entertainment. As we told our story on stage, and as the audience watched intently, we were communicating. There was a certain kind of language being spoken. A language that, in one-way or another, could relate to any issue of someone?s life. After the curtain was drawn for the last time, I sat on the edge of the stage and stared at the vacant seats. I thought about how strange it was that we would never perform that play again. People would look back on it and remember certain things, but it would never have the same connection. Sitting there I realized that theater was so immediate, and temporary. And as soon as the play had ended it disappeared. That was exactly it; theater evaporates. What once existed will return only in our memories.
After almost an hour I finally arrived at the studio. The second I walked through the door a script was shoved at me. I was ordered to learn and memorize it all in a matter of minutes. After filming the first scene of the day, I would always shove as much food as possible down my throat. Food was my main source of energy; today it was tuna. Hopefully my breath wouldn?t stink too badly, since the kissing scene was next. I?d gnaw on a stick of gum, but there?d be no point in wasting a whole stick for a mere two minutes of juicy chewing that would hardly shield the odor nonetheless. We rarely had more than two minutes between takes, since film acting is so quick paced, and extremely demanding. Some days I?ll work on four or five scenes in the span of twelve hours; other times I?ll spend half a day on one solitary scene. I?ve been acting on film for almost five years now. I remember my first movie, like I do my phone number. It was titled Those Who Know; I played a young adult named Cassie.
Numerous cameras were positioned around the living room set, in which we would shoot the majority of the movie from. ?Silence on the set, in position, cameras rolling, action!? shouted the director, as he did before each taping. After hearing these words I knew that was my cue to deliver my first line, ?Keith, take your plate into the kitchen. Do you have any manners at all?? Then the director would scream, ?Cut!? This meant to start the whole scene over until we got it right. When he finally said, ?That?s a wrap,? we?d know to move on to the next scene.
I can recall when I watched my movie for the first time in a movie theater. It was such and odd experience to see myself up on the big screen. Everything was so large and magnified, very up-close and personal. The editors chose a couple scenes that I thought weren?t the best ones we had shot. Since I had performed each scene twenty times or more, it was fascinating to see how it all came together. An actor is really left in the dark when it comes to putting together the final piece. Once seeing my first movie, I realized how acting on film was extremely permanent; once made, the movie will in no way ever be changed. It will be the exact same for anyone in the entire universe who sees it, whether it?s at the theater or rented and watched at home. Therefore, film is it?s own artifact.
I had never explored the meaning of stage verses film before now. Stage is so warm and immediate, while film is so cold and distanced. I love everything about acting on film: the cameras, the studios, and even the chaos, but I miss the stage. Though film lasts forever and the stage is temporary, the memories I have on stage are more permanent than the evidence of my work on film.