My agent (who was still quite a new figure in my life) had suggested to me that I should take an acting workshop from this guy named Matthew Harrison. I had never heard of him and had no idea what this weekend would be about. But my gut told me to just jump in and do it - no matter how scared or apprehensive I was about it. So I signed up and waiting for my script.
For this weekend I was going to do a scene from “Spanglish” and my scene partner was this guy named Mike Richards. I did my best to learn my lines and then met up with him to rehearse. All I remember about the rehearsal process is that I thought he was pretty cute, which made me even more nervous about the whole thing. He, on the other hand didn’t seem to worried and said most of the work would be done during the weekend so as long as I learned my lines I’d be fine. Hmmmmm.
I showed up on the Saturday morning to Studio on the Drive (this was back when it was actually on Commercial Drive). I was sweating I was so nervous but also really excited. Oh man, I look back now and almost feel sorry for that nieve little girl, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Matthew was like a ball of energy and he was surrounded by actors who clearly all knew each other and knew him as well. I remember him telling everyone about his experience on vacation recently doing yoga on the beach. I wanted to run out the door. This was a close knit group of people who clearly were going to judge me and wonder what the hell I was doing there. But my feet stayed planted and very soon everyone was introducing themselves to me and I felt a lot more at ease.
And then class started.
What the hell? That’s all that was going through my head. We started off doing these bizarre warm ups that made me feel so self-conscious but then something crazy happened. I got out of my head. To properly do the exercise I had to focus on what I was doing and not on my own insecurities. Huh, crazy.
Then we approached emotional preparation. Seriously, what the hell was happening? People were crying and yelling at their dead parents and hitting things and I didn’t know what to do. How could I do that? How could I reach deep down inside me and talk about my demons? Not like I had any. I was an open book, nothing wrong with me. Ha.
When it was my turn I nervously stood up to the plate. Matthew had told me that he was gonna have me bawling my eyes out on que in the scene (well THAT wasn’t gonna happen). We started chatting and it was probably clear to everyone that I had MAJOR blocks. I had an entire brick wall up in front of me and Matthew hammered at it until I finally cracked. It was the best and worst feeling I’ve ever had. The flood gates open and everything I had kept inside for my whole life just started pouring out. At that point I didn’t know how to control it so it was up to Matthew to harness me and and figure out what I could use to work with in the scene. It was a process, but I learned so much about myself as a person and as an actor. I learned about my own emotional life and how to harness it and use it in my work. I never understood about getting to the truth until then. I didn’t realize how deep you had to go to connect. Everything I had ever done had been surface, I had been pretending this whole time! Who knew acting was actually about truth and not about faking it?
Scene time! I still remember every scene I watched and how amazed I was about the talent in the room. The actors were open and honest and produced great work in a safe environment. I had never experienced a collaboration like that before. I was truly impressed and in awe. I’m still friends with many of those actors today and am continue to be impressed by their talent and dedication.
And then came my scene. The first time through was a bit of a bomb, I didn’t go there. I was scared. But then Matthew gave me some tough love and pushed me to emotionally connect. And then I experienced my first real, emotionally connected acting moment. I don’t remember the scene entirely, but I remember how I felt after. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.
That was the moment I knew for sure. I always knew I wanted to be an actor but it wasn’t until that moment that I knew why. I’ve never felt more alive, more connected or more in touch with humanity.
By the end of the weekend I was physically and emotionally drained and it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. I was addicted. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Matthew Harrison taught me what it meant to be an actor and over the years has continued to teach me. Although we occasionally butt heads, I have the utmost respect for him and give him a huge amount of credit for my career. Finding a teacher that gets you, that pushes you and that encourages you in essential in this business. I’m so glad that I have found someone who I still work with almost a decade later.
The great thing about acting is you are in a constant state of growth, you never stop learning, and I have to say that I’m pretty excited to see where the next decade takes me in my Artistic Journey!