Life, Act Two requires the good method-actor to shift into a different mindset. It’s not just a matter of learning new lines or stage direction. It’s about recognizing inside the actor’s studio of your mind that you are still the lead role in your Act Two. And it’s about understanding your character.
The Lead in Act Two is not the Lead from Act One. Remember all those mistakes you made as a teenager and young adult? Remember the reactions and interactions of those around you? They were all predicated on your status as the Ingenue, the Babe in the Woods, the Precocious little youngster out to break hearts and learn lessons.
But by Act Two, you need to have learned those lessons. Reactions and interactions with You, Act Two, are going to be different.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about my Act Two. I watch my peers as they go through the most obvious transitional shifts like divorce, which forces us to re-evaluate ourselves as mates and partners to other people, our desirability, our femininity or masculinity.
We all struggle with our aging, the evolution of our relationships. I’m fortunate enough to not have the divorce in my cards, but even without that enforced re-evaluation of myself as a partner to someone else, I still sense an evolving in my femininity and my concept of femininity. My concept of attractiveness.
I watch us struggle with our kids getting older, and realize that for many of us, there’s at least a decade’s worth (if not more) of years that have literally gone by in an exhausted blur as we did, in fact, step back or even off-stage while we assumed a role not as leading lady, but as Director, Costumer, Stage Hand, and sometimes Chief Antagonist to the stories of our children, while our own audience enjoyed a tasteful intermezzo of sherbet and instrumentals and perhaps a bit of see-and-be-seen engagement with a nod to the Society pages.
Those who didn’t have the children may have seen their story shift in favor of a sub-plot involving the introduction of secondary characters assuming the roles they once played, or finding themselves in a story that takes a different focus and direction towards a career, where the antagonists of economy, or of other life players failing their walk-on cues (or they themselves failing to cue their cast for one reason or another) and the scenery of professionalism conspire to confuse their stage direction until they find their footing just in time for the curtain to fall on the first act.
The curtain rises on Act Two and we are, first and foremost, its Casting Director. What role do you think you have to play? What role do you want to play?