July 23, 2020 in Dag

The only role I know how to play is me

Last week, I wrote a post about how I’m terrible at lying. This week, I thought I should continue on the same line, i.e. things I’m bad at. Come to think of it, I reckon if I kept going on this theme, I’d have enough posts to last for the next three years. But it could start to get a little soul-destroying, so I may keep a lid on it for now.

Anyway, what was I going on about? That’s right, something else I’m really bad at. And like lying, you may find this a little surprising. As a writer, you’d expect my imagination to be pretty strong. You’d think I wouldn’t have any trouble imagining myself as somebody else. But truth is, I’m also terrible at acting.

I can remember a number of times, back when I was a kid, when I did have a go at acting. It was excruciating. I was so bad. Every time I had a line to say, I just found myself overwhelmed by the giggles. I could barely get the words out. Plus I had to endure the glares of my castmates, none of whom were impressed by my dire attempt at performance.

So why do you think this might be the case? How could I, a writer with an overdeveloped capacity to put myself into the shoes of others, be so incapable of playing a role on a stage?

I think the answer is fairly simple. I may be imaginative but I’m also dreadfully self-conscious. I’m easily embarrassed and hate the idea of being at the centre of attention. So those times, when I’ve been on stage (or even just in front of a classroom), my nerves got the better of me and the only outlet to relieve that pressure was laughter. Not a situation that’s ever going to enable me to win an Oscar or an Emmy or a Tony or a Logie (Google it).

This analysis also explains my one and only successful performance. It was in a puppet show version of the tar baby (I know – not a particularly acceptable story in these enlightened times, but this was Australia in the 1970s). I was an amazing Brer Fox, dripping malice and greed with every word. And all that time, I was hidden from the audience (ok, the class) behind a curtain, so I didn’t have to worry about everybody looking at me.

So that’s me. Hopefully a half-decent writer but a terrible actor. The only role I’ve ever figured out how to play is me – and sometimes I’m not even sure I get that right.

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