This piece comes to us from Theresa McGuirk. I am very
pleased to have an entry of this quality as the first from a
guest author. The voice of this piece is clearly speaking
directly to the reader, but don’t let that dissuade you from
submitting something that comes from a different angle
altogether. Feel free to copy and paste straight from your
personal acting journal. One of our upcoming featured authors
did just that, with a little tidying up for clarity.
One of the things I appreciate most as an actor is that moment
when everything clicks. You know what I mean. That moment when
you are on stage and all of a sudden, the clouds part and the
heavens open and the years of intense training come joyfully to
fruition, and the blood, sweat, and tears endured during the
rehearsal process are all worth it. That moment where you
discover something not only about your character, but about
yourself as well.
When I was in school, my fellow classmates and I were tasked
with the wonderful assignment of performing four monologues as
part of our acting final. Two classic, two contemporary, a
comedic and dramatic of each. After that ordeal was over, I went
to my acting teacher for notes on my performance. She said that I
did a great job with each of the pieces, but the thing that
concerned her was that they all seemed to have the same IQ. More
importantly, they all had my IQ.
“You are a very smart young lady,” she said, “but not every
character you play is going to be as smart as you.”
I pondered her words for a long time and they seemed to make
sense, but it wasn’t until about two years later that that nugget
of wisdom really hit me.
I was called in at the last minute to take over a part in a
show. It was a role that I was actually supposed to play from the
beginning, but things changed. Anyway, it was really a blessing
in disguise that things turned out the way they did; not for my
sanity or the sleep that I lost, but for my growth as an actor.
If I had had the whole process to over-think things, like I
normally did, I would probably never have learned the lesson I
was supposed to learn.
This was a character that was so far removed from me. She was a
floater, I am a wringer. She was very simple with her
thoughts and I, well, I have never had a simple thought in my
life. And I had four short days to learn lines, and blocking, and
when to wear what costume, and oh yeah, how to lower my IQ to be
this girl who was no where near as smart as I was.
Somewhere in the middle of the second preview, this gloriously
bright light bulb went off in my head. It occurred to me, as I
was delivering the most tripped out monologue about how I wanted
to be an eagle, that a wall had been broken through. This girl
wasn’t as smart as me, true, but she wasn’t dumb. No one really
goes through life thinking that they are dumb. She might not have
had super complex thoughts, but the thoughts she did have were
important to her.
And then it occurred to me that the reason I was always opting
to play smart, strong women, was because I was scared of the
vulnerability that came with not seeming invincible. The walls of
strength and intelligence that I had been hiding behind needed to
I did start to notice, after I came to this realization, that
a lot of us seem to struggle with finding a happy IQ for our
characters. One woman I have worked with in the past, a very
seasoned actress, had such trouble with a character she was
playing. A character, you could tell, she thought she was much
smarter than. Rather than embracing this role, she almost seemed
to be personally commenting on how not smart she thought this
girl was to the point of mockery, or caricaturization. This led
to a very lackluster and insincere performance that the audience
had trouble relating to.
One of my favorite pastimes is people watching. You learn a
lot about people and what they think of themselves just by
observing them. I have found this practice to be incredibly
helpful when I need some guidance on how to adjust my IQ. If you
need enlightenment about people, that is the best place to start.
But don’t do it at Walmart. There are some forms of intelligence
that should never be observed.