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Breath and Body

by Nick Sholley (resume)


I was 8 when I became a bus-driver.

Each of us had a turn, and Mrs. Schmidt would call out the next person to come to the front of the flanks of sky-blue fiberglass student chairs (very mod), set up as the bus... And suddenly, she called my name... it was a moment of finding I was something more than I had thought, that there were possibilities... not being just a passenger, but the driver.... Stepping up to the front, I could feel my heart thud, thud expanding and pulling me forward, into my new seat. I looked down for a second. I happened to be wearing my big brother's brown and red plaid shirt I was proud of, it actually made me feel older. So I had that. I puffed my chest out. I was important. I was Mr. Bus Driver.

I remember miming the handle for the door. It stuck. That got a couple of light laughs. I asked everyone to sit down, but everyone was already sitting down, and then I looked back and insisted, getting a little grumpy-faced. This got a laugh. I felt my heart expand, like an ornamental goldfish gorging and flapping about. I was, as it were, on a roll. Mrs. Schmidt gave her sign, meaning it was time to wrap it up and give someone else a turn. (I ended up going to the grocery store so that everyone could get snacks.)

It is a long time now since the time I retired from bus-driving less than a minute after I got hired. I have gotten to be an actor for quite a bit longer, with that eight-year-old heart still swimming and jiving around in my chest.

Self-study is, one way or another, at the core of an actor's life. It takes different forms, naturally. For some, it's the self-study of an abused consciousness. For others, it is the deepening and the inquiry that happens when we realize an essential truth: actors craft consciousness, and our principle tool and clay is our very own body.

As actors we transform breath and posture, behavior and gesture, into someone new. Varying degrees of: Urgency, vitality, volume, precision. Clarity (that's training). Specificity (training and experience). Lived moment. (Experience, capital 'e').

All of this starts with breath and with the body....