Frozen in Fear

The Java Jive: Depicting Trauma on Stage

It happens. You get an incredible role – with trauma in it. Thankfully, you haven’t experienced anything like this in real life. You haven’t lost a loved one. Or been trapped in a garret to avoid persecution. Or been burnt at a stake. Or walked down the street and be assaulted – or accused of something you never would do. So how do you deliver a real and authentic performance when you have no such life experience to draw from?

We’ve all seen it happen. A normally talented performer becomes wooden and emotionally-affective during a fight scene, retreats during aggressive stage conflict, or worse – “fights the part”. How do we transcend this “fight or flight” instinct? How do we keep it real and authentic on stage?

It answer is simple. What parallels have you experienced that you can draw from? Maybe, thankfully, you have never lost a spouse, parent, or sibling, but, you might have helped a friend through the pain – or know the pain of losing your pet. Think on how you would, with kindness and empathy, help them. Then, use that as your starting point.

The stages of grief are universal. The rules would definitely apply to this pandemic. As humans, we deny. We bargain. We are shell shocked. We grieve. We become depressed and angry. And finally, we find some acceptance. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Because the stages of grief can come and go as we process these painful losses. The loss of a job and our identity. The loss of our childhood home. The loss of a child. The loss of what we thought was permanent and safe and protected.

That is what we take to the stage. That is what we give to the audience. The honesty of the emotion. The bravery of showing it through our actions. And portray hope for the future

Challenges to Percolate:

Be super brave for five minutes today.

  • Think about something you mourn. Remember “the emotions in the room” at that time. Think what got you through it, that you could bring to a role in healing.
  • “Text” a letter to a character you struggled with, showing your support for them, and then read it as that character would. Allow this to be a “moving action” to heal.

© The Pfluger Empathy Movement Method

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