The Zoom Stage

Who would have thought the song to get me to sit down and write this would be Amazing Grace (the Judy Collins version). I don’t understand why. But there’s something about the way that song is sung that makes me feel like I am walking down the streets of London. (Sorry, I have an attachment to the coloniser’s land, forgive me please, for how much I love London.)

Well, presently I am listening to Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (does that make you judge me less? it’s a song about Bob talking to God, did you know?) So God is the common theme here. Haha. Maybe I need God. Or God needs me. I know I need God. The definition of God that is removed from religion, at least. But this is not about God, nor is it about religion.

No, this is about art.

Acting, in particular. 

So, acting.

I didn’t think I had it in me to act. See, I am so shy. So shy, I still pick at my fingers when I talk. At this big age. But acting took all that out of me and made me see myself in a different light.

Gosh, it sounds so cliché.

I should mention and clarify, I’ve never acted on stage.

I once had the opportunity, to act as the Fool from King Lear. I backed out at the very last minute and the whole play came crumbling down. That’s probably when my English teacher started hating me. I am sorry, Ms. (I am sorry I have forgotten your name, it’s been over 10 years). 

My sister got me to join the acting lessons. “Just join,” she said. I was at the time saying yes to whatever, so I said okay. And who would have thought some 12 weeks since then it was what I look forward to most? 

Gosh. Acting makes you and forces you to tap into emotions you just do not want to acknowledge.

Whether that’s owning up to your not-so-healthy relationship with food. Yes, there was once a time we had to read and act out a script of a teenager who had an eating disorder. She is being asked to eat, but she is so adamant that she is full, that she has eaten. But she’s getting really thin.

And man, have I been at the receiving end of that conversation a handful of times. “Eat, Meera, you have to eat.” “I am not hungry, I ate in the morning, I am not hungry!” True story. (Okay, slightly abridged, but you get the gist of how those conversations must have gone down, right?) 

The funny, (or not-so-funny-but-i-didn’t-expect-this-so-it’s-funny) thing about all of it was that it wasn’t really triggering. It actually made me feel like you know what, this version of me exists even in the non-existent, make-believe world of acting and plays and scripts. And there’s something so comforting about that, oddly.

There’s something about being seen, and having all these people read the same script in different characters that just makes it all the more valid. It’s hard to explain. (And I said I was a writer? Ha, just about. I’m an actor now, okay in my dreams.)

There was something very comforting in knowing, that for once, the make believe people we were pretending to be on the Zoom-stage had something in common with me, and not the opposite way round. 

Now playing: What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.

I wish I could say that about 2020. 

But acting does that, right? It creates this wonderful world. Or it did for me.

Those acting lessons, that one hour, every Thursday. I felt like I was in a wonderful world. A wonderful world of creative expression or the freedom to be whoever-the-hell I wanted to be.

So one week I would put up my (somewhat terrible) British accent, and another week, (my significantly better) Indian accent. In the British accent, I was just confessing how I was afraid of flying, somewhat self-righteous, somewhat super chilled about it. Then in the Indian accent I was telling my pretend mum how the Uber driver’s dog ate the money I was paying the Uber driver with. Wild, right? Nah, more like creative freedom.

An escape, I so terribly crave for every day, even if it is just for an hour. 

Aside from accents, sometimes I was this person obsessed with posting on Instagram, even when there was a building burning down, “I have to post it, guys, I have to,” that is journalism to an extent though, right? (Is that why my journalism dreams didn’t quite work out? Save it for therapy, Meera). 

Now playing: Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.

I am about to be really cheesy now and say, that what acting lessons were about. Not worrying, being happy, being yourself, not being yourself, just being.

And then my most favourite exercise, improv.

Gosh, I fucking loved improv. (The use of the F word should tell you just how much.)

I’ve always been told I am a funny person. And to an extent I know it’s true, I know I am funny. I am just filtered funny, because I am just like, okay, I don’t want to over do it. But while acting, friends, readers, there’s no such thing as over doing it. And with improv I was able to do just that. Just be funny. Just really be funny. To whatever extent I wanted to. And I was. I really was. I love improv. It just lets you be, lets you explore, challenges you, and expects you to be quick. It was my most favourite thing to learn and do. 

Now playing: Photograph by Ed Sheeran. 

I don’t have an acting example about this song. It is just a very beautiful song. 

Acting has really brought out this version of me I didn’t even know existed.

The Zoom-stage was my happy place. My classmates were the best people to act with. And my acting teacher really believed in me and brought out the best in me.

Hopefully someday I will act on stage, even if I am a tree swaying to Mr. Tambourine Man (haha, it’s back on. Do I need a new playlist?)