As actors, we are required to use our bodies as our instruments and this can lead to some major insecurities and an unhealthy obsession with our looks. It's a hard thing to be able to separate yourself as a person from the actor in the audition room. If you are too tall to play Annie, this doesn't mean that you're too tall in real life. In a world where we are scrutinized and judged by our physical appearance, it can take its toll on our self esteem. In my work with young actors, I am very aware of the messages we send our performers about their value. I can't tell you how many times one of my young performers will come to me in a state because their costume isn't cute or they don't want to wear that wig because it will mess up their hair. Young performers are so worried about looking good that they often times sacrifice their performance because they're concerned about their appearance on stage.
Actors usually posses a certain amount of healthy ego and vanity. The fact that we have to get up in front of a room full of strangers night after night means that we have a natural concern for our appearance. But the best actors understand that not all characters are pretty. Acting isn't always about being pretty. Sometimes we're downright ugly. And that's okay. Because we are not defined as people by the characters we play on stage. And once we realize that truth, we are free to explore a whole variety of quirky characters without worrying about how ridiculous we look.
When I approach a character, I try to ignore that annoying little voice inside my head that points out all of my physical flaws. It never goes away completely because, hello, still human. But when that voice tries to deter me from making a character choice, I ignore it. And I know that sometimes (much of the time) I look ridiculous on stage. But that's okay. Because most of the time, these characters are ridiculous. Delightfully so. And to portray them as anything less than that would be an injustice.
So to all of my young performers I just want to tell you that I get it. I remember being in middle school and high school and being completely concerned with how I looked at all times. It's really hard to get on stage feeling anything less than beautiful. But I encourage you all to take risks and embrace your flaws. Because it's our flaws that make for dynamic and beautiful characters. And frankly, the more that we ignore that voice in our heads on stage, then the easier it gets to ignore that voice in real life. And maybe eventually, that voice will shut up for good!