I’m taking a class for actors about running your acting career like a business, which is something I’ve done for a while, but since I’m agent-free right now I felt like it was a good idea to get some direction.

The first homework exercise was seriously one of the most awkward, useful, and frightening things I’ve done in a long time.  (And I’ve performed in front of 10,000 people. This was worse.)

We were given a sheet of paper completely filled with adjectives and a few nouns, a long alphabetical list: “adventurous”, “awkward”, “badass”, “hunky”, “nurse”, “intense”, and on and on… over 300 words total.  We were asked to go out onto the street or into the world with a friend, bearing a stack of these word sheets, to someplace where people were hanging around and we wouldn’t bother them by talking to them.  What you do is, your friend approaches strangers, while you stand a few feet away (out of ear-shot). Your friend then asks the strangers to look at you and circle the words on the sheet that best describe you. And you stand there and try to act normal while you are scrutinized.

I act because I love to be someone else. And when I have to stand there and be me, it’s nearly excruciating. But to put myself out and request the judgement/observations of others was…. so many things. Liberating comes to mind. I also felt like crying the whole time. I would have except it would have skewed the results.

After you’ve collected a bunch of these observations, you go home and analyze the data. Which words come up most? Are there any patterns? As an actor, the exercise is to teach you both how people see you, off the cuff, but also how you can market yourself. Am I a ‘bad boy’ or a ‘frat boy’ or a ‘clean-cut professional’? Everyone can envision each of these guys pretty clearly.  Actors get hired for embodying the essence of their personal brand. The guy who plays Stifler in the American Pie movies (because I love terrible high school movies) IS the frat boy, 100%. It’s what he makes look effortless. Sure, he’s an actor, and can probably do other things to. But if you want a frat boy in your movie, he’d be top of the list. All the way to the bank.

So my words came back, and they were not surprising, and yet somehow even with my butch identity I forget that I’m not hiding. My most used words were: “artistic, intelligent, clean-cut, lesbian.”  Really, I should write LESBIAN, because when I made a word-cloud of the results, lesbian was in a font about 643 times bigger than the next biggest words, which were tied at about a 40 point font (artistic/intelligent).

Following those four words were “healthy/husky/chubby”. Next time I go out I’m going to write-in “recently lost over 45 pounds” and circle it on a bunch of the sheets just to make myself feel better. 🙂

I’ve felt kind of silly this week. Like I’ve been pretending for 20 years that no one can see that I like girls. That no one notices that I still have a (tiny) double chin. That because my butch style is like armor to my insides it doesn’t mean there is a cloak of invisibility hiding my outsides.

It feels like I might be able to breathe a little more. Accept it. What an amazing idea.

As my most influential acting teacher told me: “(it) is difficult to do the thing, by NOT doing it.”

For the first time, I want to be visible. And whether or not I admitted it before, I already am.