I Can’t, I Can

“I can’t” were words I used to say a lot. Don’t know where I picked up those always-erroneous ideas. I was that gullible child who believed my parents when they said I could do anything I wanted, and fortunate enough that life has never really proved that wrong.

I just auditioned for the role of the unnamed governess in Turn of the Screw. The stage adaptation calls for only two actors, which seems mostly to be (I haven’t read it yet) monologues by the governess, interspersed with short scenes. It’s dark and complex, psychological horror more than the gothic ghost story it parades as.

Part of the audition process involved a cold read of a short monologue packed with different emotional beats: panic, anger, fear, determination, and maybe a few more. I have taken to calling it the Damn Monologue.

I read it. I sucked. The director gave me some direction. I read it again. I sucked less. By the end, I was (mostly) happy that I’d done my best with it.

And it hit me, as I was driving home, that never once did that little voice in the back of my head say, “I can’t.” Those words did not cross my mind at any point in struggling with that Damn Monologue.

How that voice shut off is a mystery. In high school days – and even through college – it was never far away.

I’ve done precious little with theater since high school, until this summer, so why am I back in it? Why do I love it?

Like the deeper ‘why’ of most of my actions, it’s to prove that I can and help me find what I can do – what my limits are. I want to find my limits, and in finding them, break them.

I played capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art/dance) for two years. It was intense and the culture was fascinating. I loved it. Capoeira taught me where my physical limitations are, and taught me that those can be pushed and stretched. What I think are my limits can be broken over and over.

With theater, with acting, I am testing another part of me. How well can I tell a story through someone else’s words? How well can I create this illusion with my voice, and face, and body language?

And, really, I just want to know how good I can be. Even with a ten year break, I am better now than I was then. The proof is in the fact that I stumbled through that monologue without thinking even one “can’t.”

I got the role, by the way. It’s more than a little terrifying.

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