I’ve been acting on stage or in front of a camera, in some fashion or another, for over….oh, my. Never mind. More years than I thought.
Let’s say, a long time.
Most of my work has been on stage, which for me is good because unlike when it’s in front of a camera I can’t see what I’m doing or how it’s coming off. When I can see what I’m doing, I’m really distracted by myself. Over time I’ve become more used to the idea of seeing myself on screen but the distraction never really goes away.
Typically my thoughts turn to:
Is that how I really look?
Why do I stand that way?
What’s wrong with my eye?
We’re all sure that’s really my voice?
That’s the big one – the voice. While I can slowly adapt my head around anything else—the way I look, hold myself or how I need to lose weight (those things only make me realize I was young and pretty at one time)—the sound of my voice I’ll never get used to.
It’s true of all of us, that we don’t sound exactly like we sound to ourselves. I find it disturbing because it’s not only a different sound and tone and resonance, it seems to be a different person altogether.
The other day I did that ALS ice bucket challenge, recording a short thing on my MacBook. It’s not the highest quality camera or mic, but it’s sufficient. Watching it afterwards threw me. There was something new.
Oh, right. I forgot. That’s what my voice sounds like and—Oh, did I just say “hAve to” with a big flat Chicago “a” sound? Crap, I thought I’d had that under control.
My accent is nothing like some of my siblings’, whose are much stronger. And I can easily slip back in to it when I visit there, or even if I’m on the phone with them for a brief call. I just didn’t realize it was there in my every day speech. And I’m not sure it is.
I figure that I don’t usually do that, except…perhaps….maybe in the odd moment where I’m playing at being myself. Maybe that’s it. Give me a script and a character and while I still won’t sound anything like I sound inside my own ears when I speak I’ll probably be able to say say “that” instead of “dAt” without thinking about it.
As an actor I’ve always known that it’s important to know yourself and to be self aware. One needs to know what’s being put out there and how it can be read, to know what effect it has.
Suddenly it’s like I don’t know myself.
I should find more opportunities to see and hear what I sound like as myself. Maybe I’d learn something.
And maybe I’d stop being so surprised by myself.