Monday, March 21, 2011

Victorian Etiquette

The hardest thing about acting is deciding what to do with my arms. I know. It's ridiculous and absurd but it's 100% true; the only thing I dread about performing is finding a comfortable-yet appropriate-position for my arms.

This is going to sound weird, but this blog is about my musings, and I am rather musing on this topic, so here goes: I'm very aware of my arms. They are, in some bizarre way, the center of my being. I feel emotionally through my arms. When I'm touched by the word of God, it's my upper arms, not my "bosom" that burns. When I'm nervous, it's my arms that jitter, likewise with embarrassment, excitement, love; any emotion that usually clenches the chest is experienced through my upper arms. I quite literally wear my heart on my sleeve.

Because of this I am constantly aware of my arms' position as I go about my day. As a Junior High student, I was self-conscious of the way they hung at my sides (honestly though, what Junior High student is mostly concerned with the position of their arms as they walk through the adolescent halls?), so I stuffed my hands in my pockets. Until ninth grade when I realized, upon looking in a mirror, that my hands in my pockets didn't make me as picturesque as I'd thought. So I had to fix it. High school was even more tiresome because I now no longer had a binder to cling to as I walked the halls; I had a bag, and my hands where then free. I began to, and still do to this day, cling to the strap of my bag with my right hand and let the other dangle by my side.

Without a bag on my shoulder I am at a complete loss.

So imagine, someone so paranoid about the position of her arms in her daily life on stage striving to portray a character in a forgotten time period without playing the cliches and being redundant.


Junior High I was awkward and worried about my arms, but as we rehearsed with costumes, I'd find myself quite comfortable putting my hands on my natural waist (Which I've come to connect the act with the way my skirt or pants are fitted to my body. If they're snug and enhance my curve, my hands want to rest there, furthering the curve. Sadly, this is not always applicable to the character. And, because I did it all through Junior High, it is thereby overused and not to be recycled for approximately four more years.). Crazy For You I really didn't bother over my arms, because I was on stage so little that it didn't even matter to me myself what they did (though I avoided placing them on my waist like the plague.) Cinderella I kept my hands bent up, to ensure maximum ability to gesture. It fit with the Stepmother's character, and it was something I hadn't done to that extreme before.

But along came Donna Lucia. And, as always, after rehearsing so much with my script in hand, my arms want to keep that position though now they are book-free (Which, ironically is exactly the spot I'd place my arms by default for Stepmother. Wonder where the inspiration came from.). But that isn't Donna Lucia's character. She wouldn't bend her arms like that for so long.

And she wouldn't place her hands on her hips.

Needless to say I have spent the past forty minutes scanning Google images of Victorian women to see how they hold their arms. I've found a pretty decent middle ground between Stepmother and awkwardly holding my arms to my side. Let's just hope it pulls through, shall we?

And while we're on the topic, remember Charley's Aunt opens this Thursday till next Tuesday. Tell all your friends to come. I don't want the audience to consist of empty seats and my parents.

Want to know why this one helped me? See the lady on the far left with the red parasol? See how she's holding it? Genius.

1 comment:

  1. oh my gosh Erica that was so funny! i do the same thing with my bag! i cling to it and if i don't have a bad I'm so lost! i know you ( and your arms) will do great I'm so excited to come and see!