I killed an angel. Yes, I did and I’m afraid it wasn’t just one. I may have killed a bushel or a herd or a pod or a flock – flock sounds about right. Ok, I killed a flock of angels over the past couple of weeks and with that news, I hang my head in shame.
It started with my sketch writing class right after we wrote our very first sketch and then it continued when I wrote a revised version. See, in class there’s only a couple of rules and they are: “Do not apologize for what you write. Do not put down your work. When you do, an angel dies.” (When I first read the phrase “put down” I thought, “Really, I have to carry my notebook with me now? Is this some bizarre sketch writing hazing prank?”) Just to be clear, it wasn’t that I was purposefully hunting angels with my poor disposition. In fact, it happened quite innocently. We had 30 minutes to see how far we could on our first writing assignment and then BAM the time was over and it was my turn to read. Well, the laughs weren’t coming – not at all. I think the only positive sound I heard was maybe the sound of an appreciative snort, but that was it and it could have been in my head. The next thing you know, “I’m sorry” slipped right out of my mouth as I hung my head in shame. Then, I followed with “I’m sorry” because I realized I had just killed an angel. When I realized a second one had plummeted to the ground I mumbled, “I’m oh $#D D@MN!7 BAH!” and sunk into my chair mad at myself for nearly getting three before I was finished.
By the time I got home, I completely forgot about one of the rules and when asked “how did your first class go?” I shredded myself and my piece. You couldn’t get me to shut up. It was all very dramatic. Then I re-read the class rules and saw the “don’t put down your work” part. More swearing ensued. Thankfully swearing doesn’t kill angels or you could say goodbye to your personal guardians.
In class two, I made it through the whole class without commenting on what I’d written. Angels rejoiced! But on the way out of the door a friend politely asked if I was having fun. Oh boy. Those angels, who moments before had been high-fiving one another for dodging the, “Beth has something negative to say about her writing,” bullet started dropping left and right. Two improv teachers words of wisdom popped into my head. One is Tom asking “Are you having fun, Beth? Find the fun!” and then Shana, which had to do with how you present yourself to your audience after you feel like you’ve done something poorly. I guess it was a self-defense move. I didn’t want my friend to think I had any illusion that I could write and I wanted to express that I was embarrassed for myself. I shouldn’t do that. It puts people in an awkward position of having to try to make me feel better and that’s not fair.
I think there are two things that make this class exceptionally difficult for me. One is that I am the poorest sketch writer in the class. That’s not me being self-deprecating, that’s just me being completely out of my writing element. (It’s a class, we’re there to learn, blahblahblah.) I’m coming at this thing from the back of the pack and it’s really hard. My brain doesn’t think this way and where some people miss instructions like “write in first person,” I can’t actually tell you what my sketch is about. Wow. That’s a huge ego blow to find out that you don’t know what you’re writing about. I wish I had the other person’s problem of first vs. third problem. That’s easier to tackle. “Beth, what is this about?” “Kids coming of age.” “What is this about?” “Kids having an adventure and discovering a truth.” “Beth, what is this about?” “Fuck. I haven’t a clue.” “You have to know what you’re writing about or the audience won’t understand.”
The second one is that I shake uncontrollably. I can’t tell you what’s going on there. I was hoping that in the second class where other people would read my sketch that I’d be more in control (we cast the parts for the characters in the sketch and you get to hear how your words play out), but even then I started shaking. I didn’t read a single word and I was twitching uncontrollably. The hard part is I have to take suggestions when it’s over and I desperately wanted to type them into my laptop, but I physically couldn’t without drawing a lot of attention to myself, so I threw a notebook down and drove pen into paper so it would allow me to more naturally curl up. I used the pressure coming from my fist down on that pen to keep my hand steady. Even when I was cast for other people’s work, I had a slight tremble. I don’t think it was as noticeable, but it was there lurking in the background. This past year, I’ve had three performances where I’ve been on stage acting or singing and the shaking never manifested. Sure, it could be that I’m always there with a supporting cast or that the lights are dim and I can’t see the audience well, but still I’ve never shaken. I’ve never been bothered that I’m on stage. I’ve also never shaken when I’ve danced before a room full of people like in college when I was in modern dance or later on when I performed in tap shows. Maybe having been in dance recitals when I was younger created some safe pocket in my mind that said “the stage is ok” “the stage is safe”, but I’ve never felt that safe when reading. Who knows? I once asked in a class if I could just sit down, because I was making my class feel very uncomfortable from my visible shaking. There are probably several angles we could look at this from – anything from genetics, psychology, and environment to nutrition and we’ll still end up with me just being a twitchy weird individual. (It’s like living a dream! A crazy dream where I’m the sad sack everyone pities and I get supportive pats. Who doesn’t want that after stating “I want to be a princess! I want to be a ballerina! I want to be some twitchy fuck.”)
So, basically my flailing about at the bottom of the class combined with my involuntary spasms leads to angels falling from the skies. I’m sorry angels. I’m not actually gunning for you. I just get wrapped up in me and the next thing you know THWUMP. I’ll work on that. While I work on the not twitching and not killing angle, I’ll also work on giving myself a break and not abusing my work no matter how much my sketches suck.
Errr… right, working on that.