Notes on a Scandal

Sequoia Houston

Last night while in acting class, I couldn’t help but compare myself to one of the actresses. I’m sure she thought she was pretty good but all I could think of was how much better of an actress I am than her. I know that sounds terribly rude, but it’s true. Here’s why:

In 2008, my good friend [writer/actor/director] Linus “Buster” Spiller entrusted me with a spicy role in one of his stage plays. In this particular role I was invited over to someone’s home for dinner and a storm hit, causing us all to be trapped together until further notice. The button, I was there with my lesbian lover and the man of the house was a homophobic bigot. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we were never able to put the show up. THANK GOD!!! (Sorry Buster!) This had to be THE most uncomfortable role I had ever played. I’m not homophobic. I believe in “live and let live” as a general rule…but I’m not attracted to girls…and touching, hugging and (gasp) kissing one in a romantic way was quite unnerving for me. And I’m sure my performance suffered because of it.

Last night my scene partner and I did a scene from a film called Notes on a Scandal, starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. I played Barbara (Dench), the obsessed coworker holding Sheba’s indiscretion over her head to get what I wanted…and what I wanted was Sheba. Four years later and that awkward, uncomfortable and somewhat shy girl was nowhere to be found. You see, Sequoia is not attracted to women, but Barbara is and in order to live truthfully there was no time for being squeamish, wondering what others would think or being uncomfortable in my own skin. In order to give Barbara the existence that she deserved I had to brush against Sheba’s hand ever so gently, rest my hand on her knee, stroke her hair and get lost in her embrace…I had to be Barbara. I had to treat Sheba as though she was the object of my attention/affection. And the most fantastic part of all…I didn’t plan any of that. I knew what my mission was in the scene and (thanks to my acting coach Steven Anderson) that I had to use any and every tactic I could to ensure that I accomplished it. The actions came as a by-product of what I was feeling.

At the end of the day, what’s the big deal? All I was doing was what I was supposed to do, right? True…but I will never again underestimate the importance of being in a regular acting class (and/or at the very least doing stage plays, student films, etc)….because who knows when and if I would have had the opportunity to see just how much I’ve grown in these last few years. I’m learning to think of acting class more as “going to work out in the gym” than “going to learn how to act.” I think this is a common misconception for actors and why we wind up spinning our wheels in the same place for so long, many times.

I’ll leave you with this…I read a quote a little while back that said something to the effect of “The only person you should ever compare yourself with is the person you used to be.” 2012 Sequoia is SO MUCH BETTER than 2008 Sequoia. While I always believe there is room for improvement, I’m excited to see where I will be four years from now. Thanks for reading my notes on the scandal that was my fear of being open to the experience (which I’ll talk about more in the next blog)!

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