excerpts from “The Kiss” by Michael Harding, performed by Thomas Griffin


Charisma, Shyness and the Performer’s life.

Elephant Self-Portrait

Elephant Self-Portrait (Photo credit: Cybjorg)

“… one of the conclusions that really struck home for me was the idea that we all become the thing we are most afraid of.”   Michael Caine in “The Elephant To Hollywood”.

I was chatting with a friend recently about the notion of charisma and how some people seem naturally gifted with it while others develop into the “work the room” sort and still others seem completely lacking in charisma and are either pained by that or accepting.

But what is charisma? According to Webster, charisma is “an exceptional ability to secure other people’s devotion or loyalty.”

Seems like an awful lot of effort of will is required by that definition. Look at words like ability, to secure, devotion, and even loyalty. Maybe that’s why the charismatic person who  “works the room” seems to be involved in a sleight-of-hand act all the time. Pretending not to be doing anything while, in fact, doing quite a lot.

But “an exceptional ability” can describe a gift, too. The gifted charismatic person is, in fact, doing nothing at all, yet people—of their own volition—are devoted and loyal. It’s a mystery how this type of charismatic became gifted in the first place. Ask someone who’s charismatic how they got that way and the answer is usually, “I dunno” or some reference to genetics.

While it might be true that one cannot claim a gift one wasn’t born with, I believe we can learn about and even embody qualities we admire in each other. We’re mimics, after all. Aren’t we fascinating? I absolutely love exploring the inner workings of our humanity. And I suspect if I were charismatic it probably wouldn’t be of interest. That kind of exploration doesn’t seem to be part of the job description of the charismatic.

As my friend and I continued chatting, I observed something further: charismatic people seem unafraid of the world around them. They seem comfortable in their own skin in almost any environment, perhaps because their experience tells them “all will be well.”

For those of us who are without charisma that kind of security must be learned. “I think I was the shyest little boy I’ve ever come across and it could be that I became a performer to overcome that fear of being in front of people.”  Michael Caine in “The Elephant To Hollywood”.

If “all the world’s a stage”, someday I hope to be at ease on it… Until then, I’m so glad my profession let’s me pretend to be!

The Year in Review and Some Lessons Relearned.

Your work is never about you–it’s your job, that’s all. And just like any job, you show up, do your best to complete the tasks before you and go home to your personal and private life.

These two things don’t go together: personal worth and professional output (work). They are separate and if you try to blend, meld or otherwise confuse them for each other you will suffer that most awful of clichés–the mad, crazy artist–and most likely make a mess of your life.

The marketplace is made up of fickle buyers, subjective critics, jealous competitors, and a particular phenomenon called time. All of which is unreal and unrelated to your value as a person. Hold dear those who exhibit sanity and respect for the truth in their work and in your own: these are treasured friends and colleagues.

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer Deutsc...

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer Deutsch: Martha Graham 1948 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Martha Graham: “The critic thinks he is giving me to the public. He is not.

He’s giving his idea of me to the public. It can be harmful. It can be helpful. But it has never influenced me.”

Waiting for the video…

One of the more challenging aspects of life is waiting. Waiting stops the forward motion of doing and forces me to just be.
I don’t know where this imagined time-line, this ethereal schedule that dictates “things must be done, completed, finished by thus and such a date” comes from, but the damn thing exerts an awesome power on my behavior, makes me feel either successful or a failure, and keeps me moving—in a sense—rapidly toward death.
Whereas, waiting, just being, seems to fly in the face of mortality and the fact that I’ll die someday soon and all my doing will cease and all I’ve accomplished will fade into the ethers as my existence disappears from view.
But maybe that’s the key difference between waiting and doing: one encourages an experience of the fullness of this moment as the goal of living while the other encourages the drive toward the moment when things are finished, ignoring this moment for that future prize of being done.
The fact is, both aspects of living are true and necessary… Call them Creativity and Receptivity and they become clearly defined yet opposite sides of the same coin: life. I could no more resist life’s drive to create than I could life’s need to restore, rejuvenate, rest and receive. These so-called Yin and Yang of our natures are part of the laws, if you will, of existence on this earth. As long as I am energy in matter, I must obey these laws. The gift we are given at birth is the very thing that can cause us pain or pleasure: this duality of living.
Today, I reawaken to the responsibility of conscious choice, and tease myself with this proposition: How will I spend this day wisely, both waiting and doing? Creating and Receiving?
The tool that most clearly illustrates the harmony between these two aspects of living is, of course, the breath. And what a gift it is to remember that though breathing is involuntary—a force of the creative nature of life and not of the will—it is my awareness of it that makes for that richness I experience while waiting, wherein waiting is magically transformed into being, gestating, and presence.
Ah! Just one deep inhale and the release of all that business in an exhale and I am in-the-moment, alive, present, both/and.
Now if only that guy who promised the video of my performance several months ago would finally deliver the finished product so I can get back to doing my job…

Acting on Impulse celebrates a decade of theater on a mission

10/4/12 7:59 AM
Acting on Impulse celebrates a decade of theater on a mission – Brattleboro Reformer


Acting on Impulse celebrates a decade of theater on a mission

By JON POTTER / Reformer Staff Brattleboro Reformer
Posted: Reformer.com
Thursday October 4, 2012

BRATTLEBORO — The founders of Acting on Impulse tried to do it like every other non-profit arts group.
“We actually formed a board at one point, and we just looked around and said ‘This isn’t us,’” recalled
Thomas Griffin, co-founder of the 10-year-old Brattleboro-based collective of actors, writers, directors and
technical staff.
Instead, Acting on Impulse has remained steadfastly disinterested in infrastructure — it still has no building, no board, no staff, no set season, no fundraising campaign or any of the other structural trappings of typical theater companies.
What it does have is a collective devotion to theater at its basic, purest level — finding good plays that
interest its players and wringing the most out of those plays through a commitment to the craft of acting.
That, coupled with an equally steadfast devotion to a mission that includes inclusiveness, risk, social
activism, aiding worthy causes and the belief that live theater in intimate settings can bring people together and a be force for good, has kept this decidedly under-the-radar little theater company going for a decade.
And that is worth celebrating.
On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Acting on Impulse presents its 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Hooker-
Dunham Theater, 139 Main St., the only way it really could: with a night of assorted theater scenes and
excerpts, short plays and music featuring many of the people who have graced its productions in the past.
“I’m frankly proud what we’ve done some really quality work. It just sort of occurred to me that ‘Wow,
this is something to look back on and be proud of,’” said Griffin.
True to its mission, the 10th Anniversary Celebration is also a fundraiser for Peter Diamondstone and Doris
Lake, to aid in their recovery from a fire which destroyed their home. Suggested donation is $10-$30.
“It kind of epitomizes what we do in that the vast majority of our performances have been benefits,” said
local actor Jerry Levy, another co-founder.
Predictably, serendipity guided Acting on Impulse’s first days. Griffin had just returned from Los Angeles,
where he had been pursuing acting, directing and writing. Ill health forced him to curtail his activities, but he wanted to keep his chops sound. He connected with his pal Levy, and the two of them cooked up the
idea of doing “The Gin Game.”
“We do plays on impulse. We got the name right,” said Levy.
From that debut, followed “A Thousand Clowns,” which was suggested as a vehicle to work with young
Willie Finkel. Since then, Acting on Impulse has presented nine other plays, including “Love Letters,”
“True West,” “Overture to a Thursday Morning,” “The Kiss,” “The Fever” and “Marx in Soho.” Some have
been produced for short runs, others, like Levy’s one-man shows “Marx in Soho” and “The Fever” have
been produced many times — locally, across the country and overseas.
The plays are chosen not because they’ll be big at the box office, but because they are interesting to the
performers and directors.
“That’s the stuff that excites me — to bring people in and give them a chance to do their work and shine,”
said Griffin. “I’ve really loved these people, and I loved working with them.”
Often that means small audiences. But they don’t seem to mind. “I’ve performed ‘Marx in Soho’ 200 times.
I would say that at least half the performances have been for 15 or less,” said Levy, who only really minded
the intimate crowds once, when he caught a couple making out during a performance.
Though Acting on Impulse averages about one new production a year, “we’re doing a lot of stuff under-the
radar,” said Levy.
They have been workshopping Ibsen’s “Rosmerholm” in people’s homes for two years and have also been
workshopping on Arthur Miller’s “The Price.”
“We get together, have dinner and talk about the play, and then we get up and rehearse,” said Griffin.
Last spring, they launched a series of what they called “house performances,” where people are invited to
someone’s home for dinner, a performance of “The Kiss” and then a discussion with Griffin, who acts in
the play, afterward.
“The whole thing seemed to kind of crystallize the kind of intimate theater we want to do,” said Griffin. “I
think, as a culture, we’re longing for that kind of connection.”
In the meantime, you can connect with Acting on Impulse at Saturday’s 10th Anniversary Celebration,
which features performances, writing and direction by Rupa Cousins, Christopher Emily Coutant, Jesse
Diamondstone, Keely Eastley, Thomas Griffin, Patricia Hartland, Francis Hauert, Michael Fox Kennedy,
Charles Monette, Devan Monette, Sara Nicole Vitale, Kurt Weisman, Richard Wizansky, Mark Ziter, and,
of course, Griffin and Levy.
Reservations are recommended. Call 802-254-8513.

Here’s the line-up for Saturday night’s 10th Anniversary Celebration & Fundraiser.

The Gin Game ~ A Thousand Clowns ~ MEN, WOMEN, and all that nonsense! ~ Marx in Soho ~ Love Letters Betrayal ~ No Thanks, We’re Alright ~ True West Overture to a Thursday Morning ~ The Fever ~ The Kiss

Acting On Impulse Theatre Company Presents:

Our 10th Anniversary Celebration!

Featuring Performances, Direction, & Writing by:

Rupa Cousins, Christopher Emily Coutant,
Jessy Diamondstone, Keely Eastley,
Thomas Griffin, Patricia Hartland,
Francis Hauert, Michael Fox Kennedy, Jerry Levy,
Charles Monette, Devan Monette,
Sara Nicole Vitale, Kurt Weisman,
Richard Wizansky, & Mark Ziter

All Proceeds Go To Help Peter Diamondstone & Doris Lake
In Their Recovery From A Fire.

Opening with Jerry Levy & Thomas Griffin

“Connection” with Keely Eastley & Mark Ziter
written/directed by Thomas Griffin

Scene From Ibsen’s “Rosmersholm”
with Rupa Cousins, Jessy Diamondstone & Francis Hauert
directed by Jerry Levy

Devan Monette sings:
“Dead Flowers” (Stones)
“Heaven” (Talking Heads)
“Angel From Montgomery” (John Prine)
“The Last Thing On My Mind” (Tom Paxton)

“Van Gogh, A Life” with Charles Monette
Plus 1 song…

~~~~~ 10 Minute Intermission ~~~~~

“Present Laughter” by Noel Coward
a scene from Act Two
Garry Essendine ——— Michael Fox Kennedy
Joanna Lyppiatt ——— Christopher Emily Coutant
Directed by Richard Wizansky

“Legal Limits” with Francis Hauert & Sara Nicole Vitale
written/directed by Thomas Griffin

“Confession” with Jerry Levy

“Improvisation on double bass and trombone”
with Kurt Weisman and Patricia Hartland.