March 2, 2013

Scary Larry, a Teacher of Acting Technique

"The ability to identify with a character unlike any you've known is to first find some common ground, some common thought, feeling, or purpose. You must discover how to see yourself in him and the reverse." Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear

In what was supposed to be a typical commute home, enter Larry, a name that rhymes with scary, and trust, Larry was pretty darn s-c-a-r-y. Larry was your standard, middle aged, six-two, belligerent, ranting, borderline psychotic, wildly angry guy at the back of the bus making everyone uncomfortable. He talked about the trouble he's made, the banks he'll rob, the gangs fought, the wars waged all across the city. Most of which was probably not true, but nonetheless, it was a heavy 20 minute ride. Of course, no one made contact of any kind with him. Instead we simply listened. After all, he wasn't really harmful. Day after day of public transit and the skin gets tough. So there we were, sardines in a can...with a stick of dynamite.

He continued his conversation, loudly, clear and with an exactness of intent and unreserved emotion. He eventually fatigued and ended by saying, "I'm saying all this because I'm angry.... no one ever hears each other. You sit there, your heart beats, but you ain't alive. You walk but have no idea where you're going. You care, but damn it, you never show it. It's a shame. We are a shame!" A few stops later, my stop.

That display left you feeling a lot. I was captivated and I know there were others who felt the same way. It was the type of scene that could win an Oscar if it were a movie; the type of moment that made you want to hold your child tighter, not in fear, but love. But instead, it was real life: raw, unscripted, and lead by emotion. I would bet that, secretly and in our own way, we all identified with Larry. Yes, he might not have carried himself like anyone you had dinner with last week, but his words held too much truth for himself alone.

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