How an acting workshop helped me uncover my own ‘truth’

How an acting workshop helped me uncover my own ‘truth’

An impulsive decision to join ‘Actor’s Truth’ helped this writer in discovering acting tools that turned into ‘grief-healing tools’ for her

Nandini Kumar

The past few years have been a roller-coaster ride for me – personally and professionally. Finding the right therapist helped me in identifying what life was throwing at me. Consistent talk therapy assisted me in recognising a lot of my patterns, which were keeping me stuck and finding the vocabulary for what I was feeling but couldn’t articulate. Awareness was my first step towards healing.

During the first year of talk therapy, as suggested by my therapist, I focussed on movement along with speaking with my therapist once a week. This meant enrolling for group fitness classes, taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking meetings, and the like. I lost some weight and became more toned but I still carried some baggage from the past. I felt happy but not very excited. Something was missing. I felt like a painter with all shades of colour but no surface for expression.While my therapist was helping me navigate through the pandemic and caregiving for my bed-ridden father early last year, she fleetingly suggested that I should take up a new hobby – something random that made me feel happy as a child. I promptly responded, “anything that brought me validation from my loved ones.” She nodded her head. I smiled, she looked at me. I looked at her and we both burst into a laugh. I told her that I used to enjoy the process of creating but it would be difficult for me to find time to learn something new between a full-time job and part-time caregiving. So, we moved on to discussing other tools I could use to feel grounded.

I lost my father in April last year and talk therapy didn’t rescue me this time. I spoke to my therapist, focussed on work and stayed connected to loved ones but I couldn’t seem to find my way around grief. In June, I was asked to move back to Mumbai (my work city) from Delhi (home) because “things had to go back to normal ASAP.” I had to move back by July but I didn’t know how to process my anger, grief or sadness. To add to my frustration, we weren’t called to office until mid-August. For six weeks, I was away from family, living in a space I didn’t identify as my own, overworked, underpaid and throughout these weeks, Instagram kept popping up an advertisement of a month-long acting course offered by ‘The Actor’s Truth’. So, with some savings at my disposal, I impulsively decided to enrol myself for a one-month long offline acting workshop (to fulfil my whimsical childhood dream) and found the courage to put in my resignation.

Life’s lessons

The 30-day workshop was nurturing, exciting and all about ‘doing’ things. Each class divided into three sessions was four hours long, conducted by mentors who were passionate about what they had to offer. Every day began with practices to connect with oneself, followed by

fluid movements and concluded with tools, which can be used on stage/set. I discovered something new about myself every day. I was scared of making mistakes but the mentors encouraged mistakes and learning from them. I was surrounded by people (mentors and co-actors) from all walks of life who were very motivated and driven to create something. They were nothing like the corporate slaves that I had adapted myself to be around. Their enthusiasm was infectious. The workshop was designed for actors but what I learnt there can be applied to any aspect of life.

The practices and the exercises reinforced that doing things is more important than thinking about doing it right. I learnt to observe myself without judgement. I also re-discovered my childlike curiosity and risk-taking abilities. Now, I fully endorse

Shakespeare’s philosophy – “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.”

Some of the basic tools that I learnt at the workshop and would love to share are:

1. Feeling the floor: The first guided exercise that we did in the class and continued doing till the end of the workshop was feeling the floor. The exercise is simple. Feel the floor under your feet while you walk. Keep changing the pace of walk without losing awareness. Be aware of the texture of the floor, the floor’s temperature and how your feet react to it. Then, while walking, let the floor feel you. Observe the difference in your walk when you are allowing the floor to feel you. Now, walk while feeling the floor and letting the floor feel you. This exercise helps in being present and being focussed. It can be practiced with space that we walk through or surfaces that we touch.

2. How do I feel: This is a standard acting tool of ‘The Eric Morris System’. It is done by audibly or semi-audibly asking yourself “How do I feel?” and responding emotionally and ensuring that the responses are audible or semi-audible. While responding, you must include the surroundings, distractions, commentary and awareness. This drill of prompt question and answer is repeated in a loop for 5-10 minutes. The unedited, uncensored responses usually bring up underlying emotions.

3. Self-appreciation: I love this one. You audibly or semi-audibly state your achievements since birth for five minutes. These can be big or small. The idea is to say out loud even the smallest achievements. On some days, getting out of bed and reaching class on time was an achievement for me. This practice helps us in reminding ourselves that we aren’t so bad after all.

4. Gratitude: I usually practice gratitude after the self-appreciation exercise. It helps in keeping the ego in check. Just audibly say everything (out of your control) that you are grateful for. It works like magic to instil a sense of community and connection.

5. Silly Dilly: It a simple practice of being silly, which isn’t very easy when people are around. Keep making faces, sounds and movements, which you consider silly and play with it for five to seven minutes. It is extremely liberating to allow yourself to be silly and be seen while doing so.

These practices can be done by anyone at any time. They can be done independently of each other. I shared these practices with a few friends who instantaneously felt as liberated after practising them as I did. It may sound odd, but the acting workshop was more therapeutic for me than the talk therapy when it came to dealing with personal loss. I feel more energetic and excited about life now. I realised that I can start from where I was, that I don’t need an external canvas for expression. My biggest take away from the workshop was that “agar end mein sab kuch theek na ho to woh the end nahi hain dosto … picture abhi baaki hai.”