I've been working on a bunch of applications lately, hoping to find an internship for my relocation to Chicago or further training opportunities. I've been calling it my "Application Bonanza." One of them required a one-page statement on something that inspires me. I wasn't really sure where I was going when I started writing this, but it ended up being an introspective piece that speaks on an idea that I, along with many actors, covet. Here it is.
I think of Josephine Baker, who was revolutionary because of her style of dancing and because of the fact that she was a black woman in the 1920's who was revered all over the world. Not only that, she became a major figure of the French resistance during World War II. In a time when her culture was still expected to keep their heads down, she was carrying resistance documents across boarders with what I'm sure was a fabulous and alluring air, but I can only imagine the heart-pounding paranoia she must have felt. She also integrated Carnegie Hall and was bisexual, all the while she had a pet cheetah named Chiquita. So much for keeping her head down. I'm inspired by her strong convictions, by her poise while keeping them, by her determination to see them through. In a word, I am inspired by her fearlessness.
I think of Eve Ensler, who was a theatre artist living in New York who wrote The Vagina Monologues, not for her own benefit, but to give a voice to women who are otherwise unheard. In doing so, she made herself face her own past and also opened a dialog about something that our culture—and many others—simply don't talk about. She talked about vaginas in public and she talked about them in first person, as if they were her own, which takes immense confidence. In doing so, she has put a spotlight on vaginas and violence against women, a spotlight which shines all over the world now. She continues to stare down her fears as she travels to countries and talks to women who have endured what most Americans can't imagine. Then she brings it home and describes it, even when it is not something the world wants to hear. I imagine how many times she must have thought about not doing the first production of The Vagina Monologues. (She even wrote “When I first read these monologues, my most pressing concern was being able to get the words out of my terrified mouth.”) I imagine her unease at revealing her own past and her own insecurities. And yet she went further out onto the ledge and with each new publication, she continues to push the envelope with confidence that betrays her own fear that she has entrusted to her followers.
I can think of many others, but my page is almost full. With them, as with Josephine Baker and Eve Ensler, I admire their ability to see through the fear they are met with with a confidence that fools boarder patrol and audiences alike. I aspire to that level of fearlessness—the combination of bravery and confidence—that makes great people and great actors. I work on it every day, when I keep myself from worrying about a flub in rehearsal or by refusing to wait by the phone after an audition, or by blatantly admitting to you, a stranger, what goes through my head when I hear someone call another actor 'fearless': envy, admiration, and determination.