Creativity, Acting Out, and Just Plain Acting

Like most parents, I wanted to nurture my children’s creativity. At the very least, I aimed not to blunt it. Blunting it was a very real possibility during their fractious, rebellious years (which lasted from about age two to twenty) when I just wanted to command them to stay within the lines.

Both of my daughters exhibited creativity in multiple ways.

For instance, there was the resourceful, if highly perilous, method our younger daughter Ana employed to sneak out of the house at night when she was fourteen. She rappelled down the side of the house on a rope lassoed to the crumbling chimney. This same daughter later climbed Mt. Meru in Tanzania led by guides provisioned with beer in plastic pouches. Thankfully, (potential employers, take note), her college capstone project demonstrates that she has channeled her creativity into articulate and reasoned thought.

Our younger daughter’s penchant for stealth and adventure might have been a response to her older sister’s vocal and often volatile creativity—okay, acting out. Early on, odds were that if an object were close at hand while Natalie was in mid-tempest, said object would seemingly on its own be launched in a swift and furious trajectory.

During her histrionic adolescence, when she and I would clash and our contretemps would escalate to screaming matches (yes, I often employed the parenting-by-decibel method), I would exit the room and take refuge in the bathroom or closet. When the accumulation of tears and snot caused her to cough—a natural enough autonomic reaction—she enhanced it with great gasping breaths that echoed through the house. “I’m choking,” she would cry.

“If you were really choking, you wouldn’t be able to yell that you were choking,” I would call from my hiding place, refusing to give audience to such make-believe.

Over the years, of course, the behavior subsided and was replaced with reflection and deliberation. The volatility was gone, but the vocal aspect of her nature remained intact.

With a liberal arts degree earned with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors, she now finds herself in L.A. She’s been working two part-time jobs, one at a coffee shop in the Palisades and one at a deli in Brentwood. Both establishments are frequented by celebrities. She’s on a first-name basis with Julia Roberts, as in “Here’s your coffee, Julia.”

She has seated Dustin Hoffman, handed a menu to Michael Mann, had an up-close and personal encounter with Joan Rivers’s oft-amended face, and been captured in the background in a photo of Sofia Vergara on a Beverly Hills street.

Her co-workers are actors—aspiring and working—so it was inevitable that she herself would eventually become a student of the Meisner technique. This technique, according to Wikipedia, “emphasizes ‘moment-to-moment’ spontaneity through communication with other actors in order to generate behavior that is truthful within imagined, fictional circumstances.” Truth in fiction. I like it.

After auditing a class, Natalie was immediately hooked. Apparently she has a knack for acting. Her acting teacher noted that she learned in three classes what it generally takes a couple of weeks to pick up.

Could an aptitude for acting stem from great acting-out performances earlier in life?

One of Natalie’s classmates was told that while his mother had raised a polite son, he needed to bare some of his more coarse impulses and raw emotions that would allow him to, say, throw an object across the room.

If Natalie’s childhood volatility was an early training ground for displaying outsized emotions, her maturity over the years helped her harness them while retaining the visceral memory of them. Perhaps, too, the difficult personal challenges she has faced over the past few years have led her to greater self-knowledge, which happens also to be an outcome of the Meisner technique.

So while life in L.A seems to be a good fit for her, I do worry. About the excess—the traffic, the Botox boutiques, the giant ecological footprints of celebrities who live in colossal homes and drive cars the size of parade floats.

I worry about the stability (financially and emotionally) of a profession in the arts. I’m a writer who knows all about rejection and the necessity of a day job.

It’s not clear where the acting will lead. But right now she’s having fun learning the craft of it. I get that.