(Please refer to blogs #37 & #38) It took Daenya a year to return to class after the revelation that her whole adult life she had used distancing to cover the anger she felt at the age of seven, when her mother left Jamaica to work in the States. When we connect the ‘feeling of anger’ to its true source – not just the things that make us angry every day, while we leave the underlying reasons unexplored – our whole equilibrium is affected. How we see the world changes, and we often need time to adjust.
I was surprised to see Daenya again; you never know which students will have either the stamina or the real desire to act after they have a big break-through like this. Daenya’s stamina and desire are joined at the hip. Along with an ‘artist’s intelligence’ (a particular combination of IQ and EQ, a subject which I will soon tackle in this blog) are the biggest part of what people call ‘talent’ – plus hard work, of course!
At first, Daenya tackled another monologue, from Poof by Lynn Nottage, before finally returning to Berniece. In fact, she wasn’t sure she would ever go back to it. I did not offer an opinion, because I don’t push in a situation where there is so much pain. It was soon obvious to Daenya, however, that the lighter tone of Poof – a play about a woman who causes her husband to crumble into dust by standing up to him - did not exempt her from getting in touch with her own feelings about the darker subtext, which in one way or another underlies most ‘serious comedy.’ Daenya eventually came back to Berniece all on her own, and it was then that she made the connection which finally opened up the deeper part of her early experience vis-à-vis her mother; the area that needed to be explored to provide a permanent matrix for her acting.
Intuition is an important tool for an acting teacher, so one day at the very end of a lesson when Daenya was about to take her daughter on a two-week vacation to Jamaica, I instinctively found myself asking – “Why do you think your mother decided to go to America when she did?” Daenya looked as puzzled as if I had asked her a question about higher mathematics. Before she could shut down completely, I added, “I know it was to make money for the family, but why then, specifically? Do you think it was after the murder of your young cousin?”
When she and her daughter returned from their vacation, where Daenya was able to re-establish relationships with relatives and see for herself the beauty of the island - as well as the aspects of the culture that made it impossible for her to even consider living there again. She had found the kind of ‘meaningful connection’ that carries over to all characters from all societies and walks of life.
She had understood that her mother had not ‘abandoned’ her; instead, she had spent four lonely years – how difficult it must have been for her to leave her two daughters, especially little Daenya, and husband behind – while she established a beachhead in America. In fact, her mother was a hero, who had done all this so that the same terrible fate that had befallen her poor little cousin would never happen to Daenya, who was the same age. And somehow, Daenya found the strength to accept the fact that her mother had died without a reconciliation having taken place between them. This was the hardest part, but it connected her forever to the ‘abyss of losses’ that Berniece carried around within her. Although Daenya did not have a direct parallel to the slavery background of the African American experience, now she could personally relate to the situation of ever-present danger from crime, the shame felt by citizens who are not protected by laws. She had finally felt her own close relationship to Berniece’s ‘abyss’ from the one that lay beneath her own childhood back in her home country.
We were all set to process that information into acting when life suddenly threw Daenya another curveball. The dentist she was working for could no longer maintain his office and had to join a clinic. He managed to salvage her job by bringing her along with him, but now she was always on-call – even on Sundays. I also began teaching seminars, and was unavailable one Sunday each month. We were both under pressure; Daenya started sending texts to cancel the day of class. It was too frustrating, and I gave her an ultimatum. No more canceled appointments on Sundays without prior notice. But somehow the ultimatum didn’t stick. Art trumps convenience in my life, and we found a compromise solution so Daenya could continue.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day! Outing the Actor will return the following week.