I’ve always wanted to be a performer. From the time I could stand upright and hold a room’s attention, I knew there was something special about that feeling and I never wanted to let it go. I danced in ballet, jazz, tap recitals, performed in school and community theater, entered talent shows, enrolled in acting classes and set up private performances for my parents in the living room.
After high school I went to college and majored in Theater Arts – my days of “performing” were over, it was time to get serious – it was time to ACT!
I made it my mission to disappear inside of my characters. I was obsessed with playing roles that I thought were completely different than myself – Juliet, Cleopatra, Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. I believed that deleting every personal nuance of my behavior was the path to great acting. Now don’t get me wrong, acting classes are wonderful for exploring this kind of work and this period of my training was invaluable, as it allowed me the freedom to stretch and challenge myself without real-world pressures or stakes. However, during this time, I was so busy trying to erase myself, that I never stopped to take any personal inventory. As actors, we’re only given one instrument – ourselves. Instead of learning to master the guitar, I spent 4 years trying to turn into a piano, a violin, a tuba.
As I moved on to the professional world in Los Angeles, I struggled – I continued to believe that great acting was leaving myself behind. I was sad and deflated and wondered why I wasn’t booking jobs. A seminal moment came when I sat down with an acting instructor whom I highly respected and asked for advice. Frustrated and full of doubt, I asked if I should continue to pursue acting or just pack it in and head home. She said, “Brooke, you have to believe that who you are is enough. Every role is just an extension of you in different circumstances – use that! As soon as you learn to find YOURSELF in your characters, then you’ll begin to notice a difference.” It sounded simple – too simple, but I took her advice to heart and began working on bringing more of myself to my work. I studied my behavior, explored my psychology, examined the way my body moved and the timbre of my voice. I started to ACCEPT myself instead of JUDGE myself. I started paying attention to the similarities instead of the differences, and in time, started booking jobs.
So, it is this knowledge through experience, that I try to pass along to students. Acting whether for comedy or drama, stage or film, is about TRUTH. By exploring and accepting the truth in ourselves, we bring authenticity to our work and when that happens, magic happens – why? Because we’re believable! Because truth is the only thing an audience can recognize – everything else, is just a performance.
For more information about Portland acting classes with Brooke Totman, go to: www.brooketotman.com/classes