As most folks begin to take a look back on the year that was, and a look forward to the year that will be, all the "best of" lists begin to come out.
So, as an actor - someone who should be in action - I've decided that, this year, I shall list the five most interesting, inspiring or challenging experiences of 2013, in the hopes it will shed a little light on my direction for the bright and shiny new year.
So lets start with NUMBER ONE. My first trip overseas and a journey to spend time with my beautiful daughter and get to know her fabulous New York life.
Back in mid-2012 my daughter Caitlin decided to pack her backpack - and, by backpack, I mean several suitcases of expensive clothes - and try life in New York. Being the incredibly brave soul that she is, she left to live in one of the craziest cities in the world without knowing anyone or having any definite plan. She found her feet quickly, studied at Stella Adler, found a wonderful group of talented creative friends that she is now working with and fell in love. But, she's not coming back any time soon.
So I had to go to her.
Okay, this is an interesting one because, even though it was good for me and I got a lot out of it, I can't say I completely enjoyed the experience - at the time, anyway. I did four months of intensive training with a great American acting coach, sadly not in New York but right here in Footscray, and it was a real trial by fire. She was one intense and passionate lady, and big on the tough love style of teaching. As a very rusty and overly sensitive actor returning to serious study, this was quite an emotionally rough process. But if I didn't feel intensely, I would probably be a plumber rather than an actor - I hear they earn really good money! During the four months, I had some serious doubts about my abilities and my commitment and, in my 'dark night of the soul moment' (after a particularly frustrating class where I just wasn't getting it), I even considered giving up altogether... But then there was a change, where I stopped taking myself too seriously and put one of the many pieces of wisdom she was giving us into practice. 'Care less, but be more curious' - this gave me permission to take myself far less seriously and concentrate on the work, which I was really struggling with. I knew I had turned a corner when she did an impression of me in front of the rest of the class - a means to forcefully shake me out of my bad habits - and I laughed! Not only did it stop me from storing another potential hurt - poison for my acting process - but it shocked both of us, and from that moment on, we treated each other with a lot more respect. Even though it was a mega tough, frustrating and sometimes dispiriting four months, I think it helped me to toughen up, not take it so personally and learn to play - again! And for that I am very grateful!
But without the regained confidence of number one and the kick up the arse of number three, I would never have applied to audition for NUMBER FOUR.
And finally to NUMBER FIVE: a wonderful two day break in Sydney with two of my all time favourite people. We stayed in an art deco apartment (that reminded me of Mullholland Drive) right on the beach and watched two extraordinary theatrical events. First came "The Maids," starring the glorious Cate Blanchett and equally glorious Isabelle Huppert. Their sense of play really inspired me to try and continue to keep this in my work. (I can sometimes come down with a dangerous bout of way-too-serious-ness!) But the highlight of the trip was seeing Nederlands Dans Theater; a company I have been in love with for a long time, made more so by a recent cinema screening of their work (thanks to Sharmill Films). Imagine my total dance geek-gasm when we realised we were in the same row, only a few seats away, from the company's Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot and one of the principal dancers! The pieces were exquisite and so moving; we cried, then got autographs. Eeeeee!
Filed under "normal business," there has been lots of plodding along this year, lots of writing and re-writing and writing again. Lots of great theatre and movies, coffees with friends and family, intense discussions, classes and trips to the gym. All the usual stuff that, little by little, transforms me. A couple of big projects fell over and others consolidated while new ideas and plans are forming all the time. But the most exciting thing for me has been a greater sense of who I am, who I can be and what I really want to do. I'll keep you posted as I put this into action over the next 365 days. Happy 2014 all!!