Are You A Better Actor Because You Have A Pet??
Studies are showing that pets help with both emotionally and physically ill patients, the elderly, loneliness, depression, children with ADD and ADHD and now it seems like they just might help aspiring actors as well… JOMP~
Remember those mortifying, eye-roll-inducing improv classes where the teacher would make you pretend to be an animal and walk across the room as that creature in front of the whole class? Well, to this day I have no clue whether my crouching around on a dusty linoleum floor impersonating a tarantula when I was 19 resulted in my becoming a master of my craft, but I know for sure that there’s another version of this acting exercise that works much better for me: having actual live animals around to watch.
Inspired by the hit movie Wall-E, I went on a mission a few weeks ago to find two kittens to adopt. I knew exactly what they would look like: one would be an orange tabby that I would call (of course) Wall-E, and the other would be an all-white female cat that I would name Eve. If you’ve seen the film, you know that Eve is the pretty female robot who captures Wall-E’s heart.
Soon my daily life was transformed into a behavioral observation workshop. I watched as Eve and Wall-E used different techniques to cope with the radical change from the surroundings they had known before. When I got Eve in the car to drive home, she immediately crammed her entire body in the crevice between the windshield and the dashboard so she could “hide” from the terrifying prison of my Toyota Scion. Her eyes filled with fear, she spent the entire ride home farting on my friend’s shoulder. Lovely.
I wondered if I had ever been that scared for my life, and whether or not I would be able to portray such panic on stage or screen. I knew that by watching Eve that day, I was closer to knowing how.
Two weeks later Eve is transformed into a sweet, playful feline princess with a belly full of Pounce treats. Feminine and elegant, I thought she would be the perfect role model for Wall-E. Wrong. The smaller orange tabby entered the picture and was immediately chased into the empty kitty crawl space of my couch, conveniently provided by the cheap-ass furniture manufacturer known as Ikea. I had to turn the couch on its side several times before I saw a single shivering paw dangling between the two corkboard panels. Sheer terror, justified. Eve was the head of the household and boy was she pissed about the new kid in town.
I watched them more. Fighting, growling, hissing, chasing. Then a little less fighting, some suspicious smelling, and chasing resumed. Day by day, the hostility slowly eased until one day I caught them snoozing next to each other under the bed. They didn’t even bother denying it. They just looked at me and (I swear) shrugged.
Without knowing it, in the last month, my cats told a story. By being their characters, a perfect dramaturgical arc unfurled. It was without a doubt, a better acting lesson than crawling around pretending to be a spider for a bunch of other acting students.
Wall-E and Eve are more than living up to their superstar blockbuster names; I can’t wait to tune in tomorrow to see what happens next.
If you know you’re a better actor because of your pet, leave a comment below and tell me why!
Cat photo provided by author; Wall-E photo courtesy Disney/Pixar.
Also Featured in BackStage LA Actor Online Magazine
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