Rejecting “Sensible” Routes
I’ve always been too afraid to admit with any seriousness that I’m drawn to acting. When I imagine saying it out loud, I picture it going over with equal impact as, “Some day I’d like to ride unicorns!” But I’m tired of being afraid. Tired of letting fear steer my life.
Living in Calgary at twelve years old, I remember dancing across a bridge leading into Prince’s Island Park on the edge of downtown. Arms outstretched, belting out an impromptu Anne of Green Gables: The Musical fanfic song, urging my best friend to join in. Reluctantly, as always, she indulged my need to add theatrics to our hangouts.
As an only child, I would wait until my parents were due to arrive home from an outing and stand at the window imagining one of the many ways they may have died or been abducted. Conjuring up the emotion that might accompany the reality of sudden orphanhood, I would act out my own tragic scene. Calling out through my tears and banging on the living room window, I ended the scene sliding down the wall to collapse on the floor in exhausted defeat. Eventually I’d hear the key in the backdoor, prop myself back on the couch, and un-mute the television.
I know, right?
Now when I watch my favourite shows and movies, I find myself pulling apart the science behind what an actor puts into a scene. What personal story are they using to drudge up believable emotion? What background details did they cook up for their character? How did they land on the delivery of that line? And how the HELL are they keeping a straight face?
I’m old. At least by industry standards. Thirty-eight feels late to be launching myself in a new direction, especially one that puts so much emphasis on youth and appearance.But I have an eleven-year-old daughter watching how I respond to fear and the box society attempts to put women in, and I want Emma to witness me embrace the fear and rip open the box so she knows that she can too. She recently watched me leave a secure, respectable, decade-long teaching career I didn’t love. I want Emma to learn (and god, most days I need reminding too) that life isn’t to be spent mapping out the safest, most sensible routes. We’re meant to seek out and devour unpredictable and terrifying adventure. We’re meant to live.
I might not bring youth or industry-typical beauty to an acting program, but I bring grit and a readiness to learn and grow. A drive to be challenged and delighted by pushing boundaries. I want to honour and awaken that twelve-year-old Shannon who had enough pluck to stroll through Prince’s Island Park belting out inspired lyrics — simply because she couldn’t think of a reason not to.
As a writer there’s a thrill to moving people with my story — words I pluck and arrange. Connecting through storytelling is intoxicating. I imagine acting — storytelling through performance — packs an equal punch. I’d love to find out.