How An Acting Workshop Helped Me Uncover My Own ‘Truth’

Updated: Sep 28

An impulsive decision to join ‘Actor’s Truth’ helped this writer in

discovering acting tools that turned into ‘grief-healing tools’ for her.

By Nandini Kumar

The past few years have been a roller-coaster ride for me – personally

and professionally. Finding the right therapist helped me in identifying

what life was throwing at me. Consistent talk therapy assisted me in

recognising a lot of my patterns, which were keeping me stuck and

finding the vocabulary for what I was feeling but couldn’t articulate.

Awareness was my first step towards healing.

During the first year of talk therapy, as suggested by my therapist, I

focussed on movement along with speaking with my therapist once a

week. This meant enrolling for group fitness classes, taking the stairs

instead of the lift, walking meetings, and the like. I lost some weight and

became more toned but I still carried some baggage from the past. I felt

happy but not very excited. Something was missing. I felt like a painter

with all shades of colour but no surface for expression.

While my therapist was helping me navigate through the pandemic and

caregiving for my bed-ridden father early last year, she fleetingly

suggested that I should take up a new hobby – something random that

made me feel happy as a child. I promptly responded, “anything that

brought me validation from my loved ones.” She nodded her head. I

smiled, she looked at me. I looked at her and we both burst into a laugh.

I told her that I used to enjoy the process of creating but it would be

difficult for me to find time to learn something new between a full-time

job and part-time caregiving. So, we moved on to discussing other tools

I could use to feel grounded.

I lost my father in April last year and talk therapy didn’t rescue me this

time. I spoke to my therapist, focussed on work and stayed connected to

loved ones but I couldn’t seem to find my way around grief. In June, I

was asked to move back to Mumbai (my work city) from Delhi (home)

because “things had to go back to normal ASAP.” I had to move back by

July but I didn’t know how to process my anger, grief or sadness. To add

to my frustration, we weren’t called to office until mid-August. For six

weeks, I was away from family, living in a space I didn’t identify as my

own, overworked, underpaid and throughout these weeks, Instagram

kept popping up an advertisement of a month-long acting course offered

by ‘The Actor’s Truth’. So, with some savings at my disposal, I

impulsively decided to enrol myself for a one-month long offline acting

workshop (to fulfil my whimsical childhood dream) and found the

courage to put in my resignation.

Life’s lessons

The 30-day workshop was nurturing, exciting and all about ‘doing’

things. Each class divided into three sessions was four hours long,

conducted by mentors who were passionate about what they had to offer.

Every day began with practices to connect with oneself, followed by

fluid movements and concluded with tools, which can be used on

stage/set. I discovered something new about myself every day. I was

scared of making mistakes but the mentors encouraged mistakes and

learning from them. I was surrounded by people (mentors and co-actors)

from all walks of life who were very motivated and driven to create

something. They were nothing like the corporate slaves that I had

adapted myself to be around. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

The workshop was designed for actors but what I learnt there can be

applied to any aspect of life.

The practices and the exercises reinforced that doing things is more important than thinking about doing it right. I learnt to observe myself without judgement. I also re-discovered my childlike curiosity and risk-taking abilities. Now, I fully endorse

Shakespeare’s philosophy – “All the world's a stage. And all the men

and women merely players.”

Photos from the workshop

Some of the basic tools that I learnt at the workshop and would love to

share are:

1. Feeling the floor: The first guided exercise that we did in the class

and continued doing till the end of the workshop was feeling the

floor. The exercise is simple. Feel the floor under your feet while

you walk. Keep changing the pace of walk without losing

awareness. Be aware of the texture of the floor, the floor’s

temperature and how your feet react to it. Then, while walking, let

the floor feel you. Observe the difference in your walk when you

are allowing the floor to feel you. Now, walk while feeling the

floor and letting the floor feel you. This exercise helps in being

present and being focussed. It can be practiced with space that we

walk through or surfaces that we touch.

2. How do I feel: This is a standard acting tool of 'The Eric Morris

System'. It is done by audibly or semi-audibly asking yourself

“How do I feel?” and responding emotionally and ensuring that the

responses are audible or semi-audible. While responding, you must

include the surroundings, distractions, commentary and awareness.

This drill of prompt question and answer is repeated in a loop for

5-10 minutes. The unedited, uncensored responses usually bring up

underlying emotions.

3. Self-appreciation: I love this one. You audibly or semi-audibly

state your achievements since birth for five minutes. These can be

big or small. The idea is to say out loud even the smallest

achievements. On some days, getting out of bed and reaching class

on time was an achievement for me. This practice helps us in

reminding ourselves that we aren’t so bad after all.

4. Gratitude: I usually practice gratitude after the self-appreciation

exercise. It helps in keeping the ego in check. Just audibly say

everything (out of your control) that you are grateful for. It works

like magic to instil a sense of community and connection.

5. Silly Dilly: It a simple practice of being silly, which isn’t very easy

when people are around. Keep making faces, sounds and

movements, which you consider silly and play with it for five to

seven minutes. It is extremely liberating to allow yourself to be

silly and be seen while doing so.

These practices can be done by anyone at any time. They can be done

independently of each other. I shared these practices with a few friends

who instantaneously felt as liberated after practising them as I did.

It may sound odd, but the acting workshop was more therapeutic for me

than the talk therapy when it came to dealing with personal loss. I feel

more energetic and excited about life now. I realised that I can start from

where I was, that I don’t need an external canvas for expression. My

biggest take away from the workshop was that "agar end mein sab kuch

theek na ho to woh the end nahi hain dosto ... picture abhi baaki hai."

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