Drama School Diaries (DSD) Part 26

13 Jul

Okay, so i’ve just had my notes with (let’s call him..) DC; the 6th teacher to give me feedback on my part in the showings last week (Chekhov The Sea-Gull). My notes have been good, encouraging, and beneficial my technical problem was that at times I pushed my voice and at other times I wasn’t ‘on voice’ enough, also sometimes my body tightened up a bit. The rest of my feedback has been great to be honest, so in I go with DC to have another ‘notes’ session. You’ll have read in my previous blogs about my journey with criticism (criticism is good!). However..

I’ve been left challenged

I’ve been left confused

I’ve been left upset

I’ve been left infused

DC begins by saying ‘both on and off stage (meaning in every day life) you come across angry, and aggressive’.

Now I took it. I sat down, heard what he had to say, and I took it.

But then I had to challenge it.

‘I find your comment about aggression etc interesting because I’ve never heard that before’.

‘Well, why would anyone tell you you came across aggressive and angry?’

‘To help me towards becoming less apparently angry and aggressive’

‘But your friends wouldn’t tell you that, and the people who stay away from you wouldn’t have the chance to…it might just be around actors, and artistic environments’

‘Before I came here I went to Identity Drama School workshops once a week; I was never told I was angry and aggressive. Before I came here I worked with Talawa Theatre every day for a month; they didn’t tell me I was angry and aggressive either’.

That’s right, because woopsy daisy; I had a life before I came here, oh my gosh! that’s right! yes i did! Crazy isn’t it?!! Sometimes it’s like they assume any artistic credit was only manifested the day you got the letter saying you got in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful I’m here, I love it here..however this had me slowly incensing….but I kept it under the surface lest I prove him right.

‘I’m a poet, and I have received criticism before, but I’m yet to be told I appear angry or aggressive’

In fact, I thought to myself. Femi, the Principle of Identity told me I was a ‘blessing’, Havannah, an organiser from Talawa told me I was a ‘leader’, and even the organiser of a gig I had last week said I was a ‘reassuring force’. I never brag; I even have a tendency to focus on the negative to avoid growing an ego, but at this moment I had to cling onto these statements of encouragement as glue to keep myself together. By now however; I was crying, and if you’ve read my other blogs on tears- you’ll know they come easily.

‘…so (i continued) i don’t know why it’s only here that I’m deemed as seemingly aggressive and angry’

This began our long conversation… He mentioned me being negative, then positive, then that I come across aggressive and angry ‘all the time’, even when walking through the corridors, my general conversation with people, that he associates the sound of my voice with something negative and agressive.

So my mind is cast back to something Christian Burgess; one of our directors said. He was talking about character, he said that you cannot define anyone by their behaviour because that is merely them in a specific circumstance/context; I told DC that seeing as I am only deemed as constantly ‘aggressive and angry’ when I’m here; it could be the result of my specific circumstance.

Then he started chatting that same old junk about ‘yes, you’ve put this anger on as a defence mechanism because you’ve needed it to SURVIVE’. That statement always makes me laugh: like how working class people talk ‘jafaican/jafrican’ or slur their words because ‘they need to SURVIVE’, like how urban people walk with a slight limp because ‘they’ve needed it to SURVIVE’…..

…Like how poor people steal because they need to SURVIVE…like how black boys murder black boys because they need to SURVIVE…like how america invades iraq because they need to SURVIVE…like how..i could go on.

What is this toshack about needing to survive? you have no right to say that ‘working class people talk ‘jafaican’/slur their words’, that ‘urban people walk with a limp’ and it DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY to stick at the end of it ‘TO SURVIVE”! it’s still ignorant…a little tab at the end doesn’t justify it. It doesn’t change its meaning.

I explained Christian Burgess’ theory; I proposed to him that if, in fact, I do come across as angry and aggressive, then he should consider that that may very well be a reaction or consequence of the environment I’m in, I suggested that aggression and anger are a part of everyone; even him; I could recall a time when he spoke with a level of seeming aggression; but I would never say he was ‘aggressive’ (that’s when he interjected that the difference between him and I was that I come across like that all the time). I concluded that if my seeming anger and aggressiveness only manifest here, it could be a product of my circumstance, but that if an angry and aggressive ‘character’ was to alter, surely my conditions/environment would have to also alter for any change to take effect.

He stared at me, blank-faced yet with a smile, thinking a) who knew she could string an intelligent sentence together or b) she’s so blind to herself

DC explained how during the course of our long and tedious ‘notes’ session I attempted to turn everything around on him; that, of course; was part of my survival defence mechanism. (To be honest I was just testing the waters to see how he’d react when I said ‘everyone can be aggressive, even you at times, but I would never define you as seemingly aggressive’.)

He said ‘I’ve simply turned a mirror around and shown you a reflection of yourself’;

he continues;

‘I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing; but just merely showing it to you, that it could be a ‘consequence of your life experiences and history, who knows?’

I ask him whether it could be plausible; even in the slightest, that his interpretation of me could be a consequence of his life experiences and history..who knows?’. He clearly knew; because he shut that notion down immediately. Telling someone they appear aggressive and angry will always be perceived as a bad thing whether you say it’s a ‘mere showing’ or not.

By the end of our long and tedious ‘notes session’ we both mutually decided to agree to disagree. ‘Can I hug you?’; this is something he does after every note session, and I personally believe that if you do that to everyone who comes in for notes for 20 odd years there’s a possibility whatever meaning it once had could once disappear. I asked him ‘what would be your intention in doing so?’ He said ‘to reassure you

Two thoughts went through my mind; to reassure me that I’m angry and aggressive? Or to reassure yourself?’ Nevertheless I vocalised neither, and hugged him. It was one of those tight ones that last for a while but something in his grip gave away the slight lack of genuine love.

I left his office in floods of tears; that felt more like an insult session rather than criticism or feedback. I was honest with my classmates and told them the gist of the session; they profusely disagreed which was a comfort. Then, as I was writing this blog an angel came, took me into a classroom and spoke with me for about 30 minutes. He said some people are intimidated by strong personalities, that some are intimidated by those they can’t manipulate or gain some kind of control over. He said that in some environments your skin colour alone is a sign of strength- and this is a false presumption. He said that no one here can tell me who I am, that if anything what I have is strength rather than aggression, and that is a good thing and will be of benefit to my future.

The angel and I departed, and I came back to finish this blog. As for DC, before he polishes his mirror for me he should probably have a look at my reflection in someone else’s mirror: perhaps the mirror being held by the cleaners that clean the carpet outside of his office; the ones he may have hardly said two words to, but that I greet everyday; the mirror being held by the students who have worked with me for thousands of hours; the mirror held by the residents in hostels I have worked in, the mirror held by my big sister and family; the mirror held by GOD.

In the words of a jafrican working class urban limp walking ‘survivor’: BUN YOU BLAD.


7 Responses to “Drama School Diaries (DSD) Part 26”

  1. Aleisha September 21, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    You’re conclusion was amazing and you composure and ability not to explode is very admirable=) I know you posted this a while ago but I’ve only just come across this blog and it might actually be my new e bay lol I’m learning very quickly that seeing as we are whom God says we are and not everyone has a revelation form God about who you are, some confessions over our lives aren’t always positive- but in the end if the Holy Spirit is truly working through you, an attack on you will definitely end up glorifying the presence of God in your life. BAH! So inspired =)

  2. Shaunett July 13, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Why is it that people take one look at our skin colour and hair and immediately put their defences up & think “oh, s/he’s aggressive” “oh no, here’s another angry & aggressive black wo/man” before we’ve even opened our smile to say ‘hello’?
    I have come to one conclusion… They watch too much TV and dare I say it? They’ve watched too much Eastenders. And not only that – dare I say it? (I do dare) They’ve been to Hackney/Dalston/Brixton/Harlesden/Lewisham/Peckham/wherever-am and we black people have reinforced that stereotype. You know, the time when black people stop their cars in the middle of the street to cuss or leer at some half-naked woman. Or the time when black people touch their clearly-empty oystercard on the bus or tube/train station and keep touching it and touching it until the staff give in and wave them through. Or when black people are bawling at other black people in some unsightly manner. Or. Could it be when they meet someone like you – a gorgeous, upright, God-fearing, intelligent, strong woman who does not behave in such a godforsaken manner that they don’t know what to do with you or where to put you because you don’t fit the box or mould they have created in their own head. They see how you handle yourself with self-worth and self-respect and their mind goes “Does not compute!Where could she have got that from?” and so they try to manipulate and push false accusations at you in the vain hope that you will react and prove them right. Don’t be fooled into thinking that DC didn’t see you fighting those tears back. Don’t be fooled into thinking that DC didn’t see how he was getting to you. He was making mental notes of everything he said so that next time, he can carry on from where he left off. But what DC doesn’t realise is that we serve a mighty God who is our avenger and He will not allow your foot to me moved so, M? keep doing what your doing. Because DC will have his day with an angel just like you did. And then let’s see what happens. Let’s educate DC.
    Love you much. Like, a lot, like.

  3. Big Sis July 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Lol @ ‘bun you blad’. You don’t have to and you clearly haven’t taken what you know to not be true on. Indeed people will attempt to make sense of behaviour they don’t understand or are threatened by, by using the yard stick that they have often got used to pulling out to measure people with. When they meet someone who says “Sorry mate, wrong stick”, they find ways to tell you that you have problems. Well. It is them that have the problem you see, because of their jobs, (critique/evaluation) they measure themselves by the ability to measure others and when their evaluation is rejected, they panic and turn it back found on you! Nonsense! Don’t bring none of that talk round our way!

    • Rachel Okay July 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

      here here!

      [last comment on this post… promise lol]

  4. Marzi July 13, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Ok-so normally I don’t leave comments as I try not to be a ‘crazed-fan’ but I’m so incensed by your experience I feel I have to.

    A similar situation happened to me a few weeks ago. I was told I was the complete opposite of what I am. When turning the same comments back onto the people ‘advising’ me, they couldn’t (refused to) see my point. I lost my job and lifestyle as a result.

    My point is this-I just want you to know that you are not alone and that your angel was correct. It happens to people of colour more often than not and in various occupations. People are intimidated by strong personalities and are intimidated by those they can’t manipulate or gain some kind of control over.In my environment my skin colour alone was a sign of strength- and this is a false presumption. Seeing as I was the only ethnic person in my place of work this is now highly evident as being a major cause in the circumstance.

    The situation I was in left me relatively self destructive-trying to scrutinize every aspect of my personality, professionally and personally. My conclusion-I realised that actually I know who I am…I’m not changing myself to suit every person who THINKS they know who I am and how I should behave.

    Its funny because as an afro-caribbean of large stature I have always been so careful not to be too loud, or too out-spoken or too…well…anything. But what it seems to come down to is that however you behave someone, somewhere will always have something to say. Being a whole person who knows themselves and won’t comprimise themselves is key. I refused to bend over backwards to accomodate perfect size 10 Cindy/Barbie images and in result its left me jobless but undeniably happy and content and strong. The thing they forget Michaela, is that the difference is we have Christ on our side. What Christ thinks about me, outweighs what anybody has to say about me and thats it.

    So keep keeping on. Keep doing your thing. Keep that mirror of God held proud and high!

    Hope you feel encouraged. God bless x

    • Rachel Okay July 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

      Marzi was the ‘crazed-fan’ a jab at me? lol I’m only joking! :O) Really liked what you said… so thought I’d comment and say so!

      Good job!

      I gave up trying to be “careful not to be too loud, or too out-spoken or too… well…anything” also… once it finally dawned on me that I was TIRED of trying to be all things to all men!

      “If God be for us, who can be against us? ” – right!
      I take things quite literally so after quoting this is I feel I have to answer the question lol so I also remind myself… “I don’t know… but quite frankly finding out who is “against us” is pointless because they merely pale in comparison to my God… soooo try not to care Rach”

      Side note: I’ve always found it interesting how easily people confuse loudness for aggression…

  5. Rachel Okay July 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    “So my mind is cast back to something Christian Burgess; one of our directors said. He was talking about character, he said that you cannot define anyone by their behaviour because that is merely them in a specific circumstance/context.”
    – Mmmmm… I really like this…

    He stared at me, blank-faced yet with a smile, thinking a) who know she could string an intelligent sentence together or b) she’s so blind to herself
    – WOWIEE!!!

    Lol to the max at crying! But on a serious note… mad props for still holding ur own through the tears… I’m working on that…

    Absolutely love the way you ended this [mirrors —> BUN YOU BLAD]

    Praise God for that Angel :O)

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