This morning, after covering my two kids in sunscreen, I read the word of inspiration for the day and we headed out for a walk in a wooden wagon. Well, I walked, and they rode along like royalty. I gave the detail of “wooden” to highlight the fact that it was heavy. Especially on a dirt road, dragging 65 pounds of kid and an extra few pounds of halfway-through-my-third-pregnancy exhaustion. And what, you might ask, was my purpose? To see my mother, who was working a mile or so down the road at a neighbor’s house. Had I not told her I would be coming, I would have given up before leaving the driveway. I know that sounds wimpy, but I simply mean, I would not have had a purpose strong enough to drive me to trudge through the dry, hot day. The need for exercise was not sufficient. So why go to see my mother? Because I told her I would. Why was that so important to me? Because I was raised to keep my word, even when it hurts. And believe me, folks, I felt like an elephant trying to walk through pools of wet cement. Somewhat. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But you get the picture.
I was grateful I had read the word “purpose,” because it gave me something to contemplate, which is always helpful when every temptation is to think of one’s own discomfort. As we walked, my kids asked the typical “why” and “what for” questions, and I was struck by how, from the time we can barely speak, we have a desperate need to know “why.” And “just because” is never a sufficient answer. We want details. And inevitably, when one why question is answered, another is born out of it. “Why is that light there, mommy?”—“So cars will see it.”—“Why?”—“So they don’t run into the ditch at night.” Kids are smart. They know everything should have a purpose. Even if it is just to make you smile, like the statue of David bust I have that I like to set in front of the bathroom mirror to disturb my husband. He is certain “David” is watching him pee. Purpose.
Which is exactly what acting is all about. When I get a script, I have learned to read between the lines. Why am I saying this, why am I moving, why am I here? And the more “why” questions you ask, the deeper and more interesting things become, and the more your character becomes involved in circumstances, the more you become invested in them. Its why it is so fascinating to watch characters that have a purpose. William Wallace in “Braveheart,” anyone? And think of the most depressing movies or moments you have seen in film. It is not necessarily the moments of loss, awful and hurtful as they can be. It is the moment when a chara
cter loses purpose. That is harder to watch. For me, anyway. Sometimes it is depressing, other times I feel outraged. “Get up, Bambi!”
I believe, if we followed a trail of “whys” to the very end, we would find one of two motivations—to build, or to destroy. One is life, the other, death. So, what is my character’s motivation? That solves one piece of the puzzle. What does my character think everyone else’s motivation is? That makes things a bit more interesting. Am I threatened by this person, or do I trust them? Do I believe that, though
our methods may be different, our purpose is the same? That affects how I speak to someone, doesn’t it? Do I think I can change someone’s motivation?
All interesting questions and all part of what makes acting so fascinating to me. It is the study of human behavior by living those different behaviors. Which means, that to be a better actor, I get
to study people. Something so complex and fascinating, I will never be finished until the day I die. Why do I study them? Because I love them. Why? Because I love God. Why? Because He is the master builder, and He has built a life for me that I never deserved. So my purpose is to imitate Him by building up. That is the purpose that will motivate me to the end. Despite those heavy loads.
In response to the WordPress word prompt of the day: