Acting Small

September 1, 2010

So I had a reading from a script that I’m developing, “Sweet Justice,” last night at the Bridge Theater with the Kaleidoscope actors and it was great! Kaleidoscope organized it (bless them!) and even went out of their way to find African actors to play the roles and embody the accents. Okay, so none of them were East African so it was more of the generic “African” accent (whatever that means!) but I loved being able to hear and see it on stage, really special. Definitely check Kaleidoscope out, they’re doing good things in supporting each other’s growth as an actor’s collective, and as a writer/director there’s nothing better than to be able to collaborate with a group of ambitious hungry actors!

Anyway, one of the actors did a monologue that made me think about acting small in order to accommodate other people’s feelings. We’ve all heard the standard response, the Mandela quote about letting your light shine, etc. but I thought it would be good to acknowledge that’s its not merely a personal decision or fear of being big, but actually comes from decades and maybe centuries of conditioning as a survival tactic. And its not our fault.

My ancestors had no choice but to act small in the face of racism and colonialism in order to preserve themselves. Being too big meant being brutalized, attacked, selected as strong and capable slave-material, and whatever modern form of oppression followed that. Racism REQUIRES us to act small in order to make oppressors feel justified in their actions (of brutalizing and mistreating people who aren’t/weren’t fully human anyway.)

Sadly, the secretary in charge of distributing the memo that the “Act Small period” has lapsed fell asleep on the job, and a lot of us have been diligently filling in on the oppressor role towards each other in the meantime. We keep each other acting small in order not to feel bad about ourselves. Our political leaders keep us acting small to justify their constant abuse, neglect and mistreatment of citizens. That was the design of the plan from the get go – something sustainable. It was made that way.

the good news is that we can stop. Let this be the official memo! What are you doing to ensure and foster your own growth and that of those around you? What [creative person] that you know needs to be reminded that they can work at full capacity and stop acting small in order to make others look good? It’s scary as hell to act big in the face of centuries of conditioning, but that’s also part of the sustainable design. Its time to refurbish and renovate that design.

No one looks good amongst small people. Lets change that. Its time to big up ya’ll!