“Miss Nolin. On Stage.”
Tuesday and Thursday. I love Tuesdays and Thursdays. These two days, for me, are filled with a combination of dread, excitement, fear, joy, love, despair, hope, frustration, surprise, hilarity, compassion, disappointment, friendship, loss, grief, truth, anxiety, anger, forgiveness, trust, disgust, surprise, shame, pity, confusion, kindness, respect, courage, discovery, and wonder. Basically all the human emotions and counter emotions packed into four hours. It’s AMAZING. It’s like you’re riding on the wildest emotional rollercoaster that builds itself as you ride along. Anything could happen.
I realize this blog post is very observational, but I think that has a lot to do with my background in photography. I’m an observer at heart and very interested in the human condition and spirit. I think that may be why I can seem distant at times or like I’m leaving myself out of the equation. Anyway!
I love walking into 357 W. 36th St., Suite #202 New York, NY 10018. I love
walking up those loud, creaky stairs. I can hear my friends are rehearsing their
scenes in the stairwell or in the hallway. Actors are filing in for class. There’s an
energy in the room that’s like no other. You might see veteran actors introducing
themselves to new comers (you don’t feel like a newbie for long), conversations
about life, and work, and struggles, and successes, and, most recently the
challenges that face our country following the election. There’s a lot going on.
Class begins at 12pm give or take a couple minutes. Matt comes out of his office
greeting people, coffee in hand, takes a seat on stage and class begins. He has
a big presence and he keeps the class moving forward. The ball never drops.
“Everyone phones off. Be here. Take a Breath. What are we giving up today?”
You might hear things like, “I’m giving up the need for perfection.” Or “I’m giving
up second guessing myself.” “I’m giving up thinking that things need to be a
certain way.” “I’m giving up the belief that I’m not worthy of my successes” The
list goes on.
I love that first moment when we are all HERE and ready to do the work, giving
up what doesn’t serve our art or each other. We are here to listen and we are
here to speak, to use our voices, and to be heard. I love that Matt demands
respect for one another and ourselves in his class. I love that he raises the bar
and gives a lot of tough love because the truth is the path of an actor is not for
the faint of heart. I love that I can count on my coach to call me out on my bull
shit, or make fun of my hair, because, “We can’t do this work without a little
sense of humor ladies and gentleman!” Matt is playful and serious about the work
all while fostering a creative, safe, and trusting environment for us to show up,
listen, speak up, fail, get back up, fail again, and breakthrough.
I’d like to share some notes I took in class when I first started at MCS. You might
notice there is a lot of repetition (no pun intended) and that’s because they are
the things that have taken me years to do and continue to do, like really listening
and speaking my truth for instance.
-Give and receive and DON’T try and do anything to your partner.
-Let yourself be panicked and let yourself not know what to do.
-Emotional prep only takes you to the first moment!
-Let yourself not know what to do.
-Be fully expressed for fucks sake
-Can you fight for a better you?
-Tell your truth
-Surrender to your emotions
-Can you please fight for a better you!?
-You never know how love is going to show up
-Stop suffering alone
-Tell the truth
-Choose to tell the hard truth
-You MUST have a strong POV on everything
-Make the choice to listen. Make the choice to really be there
-Do not let so much space occur between repetition. It dulls the moment!
-If you have the impulse to slap Steve’s ass then just do it!
-Be generous with your giving to the other person.
-Tell the truth
-The truth is always going to come from the doing
-Listen and repeat. Put all your attention on the other person
-You have to make the choice to be here and you have to make the choice to be
-Express the words and what they mean to you. That is your job as an artist!
-You can’t think yourself into connection. You need to be here with your partner,
-You don’t have to do it alone
-The doing and the behavior are so much more interesting than any explanation
-Have a strong POV on your words and make sure that they land.
-You must speak your truth. Your truth is neither right nor wrong. It just is.
When I first started at MCS I was a mess. I couldn’t listen, or find my truth never
mind speak it. When Matt would call me on stage I’d be so overcome with my
own anxiety that I could barely get up out of my damn seat or get through a
scene or exercise. While there is still a lot of work to be done I can honestly say
that I have come a long way since that first day. My POV is stronger, I’m feeling
more comfortable in my own skin, I’m not afraid to speak my own truth even
when it’s really difficult to do so, I’m more accepting of myself and where I’m at in
life and in the work.
I guess I should tell you a little more about myself. I’ve never felt comfortable in
my own skin. I have big issues with self worth and anxiety. I was still reeling from
a failed relationship, and unresolved familial issues that until this day break my
heart. When I first came to NY, all of that didn’t translate well into my acting. I
built a pretty nasty ego wall around my heart and It’s taken a lot of falling down
and getting back up for me to get to a healthy place of discovery and learning. I
truly feel that Matt’s class saved my life. Not only through his dedication and
coaching, but through the generosity of spirit and camaraderie of my peers. I’m
constantly in awe of the work that unfolds before my eyes in class. A lot of the
time I’m literally on the edge of my seat, routing for a classmate or just blown
away by a performance.
If I were sitting down with James Lipton (it could happen!) and he asked me, “If
Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say at the pearly
gates?” from his famous Bernard Pivot questionnaire I’d most certainly reply,
“Miss Nolin. On stage.” Am I in heaven?