I’m getting married in a couple weeks and a wedding ceremony, in more than one way, is like a performance. We have a script, there’s an audience, and maybe some in the audience have expectations of emotional fireworks from the bride or groom. Lots of pressure, I know.
I’ve thought a lot about the moment when my (almost) wife Alison walks down the aisle. If I go into this moment focusing on how I want the audience to notice my feelings, putting my attention on myself, I might try to force a tear or two. Because the groom is supposed to cry when he sees his bride walking down the aisle, right? But forcing myself to cry, even if I can produce some moisture on my face, reads phony. The crowd will watch me trying to cry and think, “Uhhhh is he okay?”
Going back and forth in my head about how I should handle this moment, I had a realization and remembered my training. My Meisner training, that is. In the first day of Level 1: Living Truthfully, we talk about what Meisner calls “the reality of doing.” How acting isn’t feeling, thinking, or thinking about feelings, acting is doing. That when an actor gets fully invested in what they are doing, rich human behavior comes alive in their performance. It’s effortless. If you’re playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire and that iconic moment happens when you need to shout up to Stella to come down, “Hey Stella!” and you try to get emotional, it’s going to read pushed, rehearsed, and your audience is going to shrink away knowing that you’re an actor trying to act.
But if you get to this iconic moment and forget about what it’s supposed to look like or how Marlon Brando did it, and simply put all your attention into getting your wife to come down the stairs, and you’re committed 100% to getting that done, then your audience is going to lean in, hate you for being such a demanding drunk, maybe even forget that they’re watching someone act and get swept up in the story.
So during my wedding ceremony in just a few weeks (June 18, yes, I’m very excited) I’m going to put my full attention on my bride as she walks down the aisle. I’m going to be present for that moment and fully invested in watching her walk. Maybe I’ll laugh, maybe I’ll cry, perhaps I’ll break out in a silly grin. Whatever emotion that comes up won’t be because I will it to, it’ll be because I’m watching Alison walk down the aisle to say, “I do.”