Pinning the Tail on the Future

A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –

Pin the tail on the donkey

Me on my 7th birthday – photo by Samuel T. Bennett

On my seventh birthday I remember running excitedly down the grassy yard alongside the house where we lived on Pacific Terrace.  I was to have a big party that afternoon complete with games and party favors and friends my age.  I had a new sundress to wear.  It was June and my birthday happened to fall on Father’s Day, which for some reason filled the day with special, magical meaning.  My birthday and Father’s Day together! How could that be? I felt strangely blessed and honored by powers beyond my comprehension. The summer air sung.

It would be nice if every foray into the unknown was one of excitement.  But unfortunately the flip side of excitement is anxiety.  In the acting class I’m teaching now, one of the things I am helping my students with is not to look forward while they are in the middle of a scene.  If they are thinking ahead in fear that they will stumble on the words, the piece will not come to life in the present moment.

When I look at the above childhood picture of myself taken by my father on that birthday, I feel strangely calm. There is an element of trust I feel for the child I was, even though I am clearly not pinning the tail anywhere near the donkey’s backside. But the trees and the sunlight are creating dappled shadows, I am surrounded by people who love me and I am being honored by the day.

It’s my turn in the game.

Watch for one of my acting students, Aparna Brielle, who is a guest star on Grimm this Friday, May 2nd. She plays Jenny.

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13 Responses to Pinning the Tail on the Future

  1. Joe D says:

    I loved the language in this story, it was fun to see you paint the picture of your childhood with the language. One of my favorite descriptions was “the summer air sung”. Well written and put together and great advice on not looking forward to soon.

  2. Nayomi C says:

    I liked how the story makes you feel like you were there. The message and the feelings are very clear.

  3. Mosko says:

    I really liked your advice to not look ahead. I remember you giving this to our speech class in the beggening of the year and I have really implemented this to not only to my speeches but to many other areas in my life as well.
    I enjoyed your imagery and the picture of you on your 17th birthday that you gave us.. Very well written .

  4. Ben F says:

    In the words of the great Edna Mode, “I never look back darling. It distracts from the now.” While it may seem an entirely opposite statement to what is being said in this story, the principle remains the same. Life happens in the present moment. We must live in its fullness now.

    • Katie Bennett says:

      Well said. One thing my “pinning” post doesn’t say is in the moment you are acting, it is important not to look back at your mistakes–if you are thinking about a flubbed line or cue you are also not in the present moment. I plan to blog about this next, only I’m going to talk about playing the piano. This principle applies to so many disciplines.

  5. Deborah L says:

    On the acting side of it, I definitely resonate with the sense of approaching the future out of fear. In the rehearsals before the Spring Production of “As You Like It”, I know that I was operating in anticipation of stage fright. It was the first time I would be acting in front of a crowd, and I wasn’t sure that my love of the text was going to carry me through it. But I loved acting with fellow students and, while I never forgot that there were people out in the audience, some who knew me well off the stage, I couldn’t bring myself to worry about it when I was Jaques. Now I just feel silly about all of the times I was afraid of freezing up in front of an audience because I am sure there were times that I stole the show.

  6. Benjamin Kociemba says:

    The logic behind focusing on the present and taking on the future later has merit. It is a concept I learned in my high school wrestling career. I used to have trouble with how I was going to face all of the opponents I would have to face in a tournament. I was fluster on how take them all on. Then I started to narrow my focus on one mach at a time. I told myself that I didn’t have large problem, I just have a hundred little ones. What lies ahead of me has no meaning unless I take part in the now. The past is past and the future is unknown, but the present is tangible. “No fate is what we make” -Sara Connor, T2.

  7. Jefferson C says:

    I really like the fact that you expressed your feelings. You were not afraid to share your feelings you felt that day and what you wanted other to know about fear. I enjoyed your passion to teach others not to fear, but to “think ahead in fear.”

  8. Julianna Edwardson says:

    The part of this blogpost that resonated with me the most was when you said, “It would be nice if every foray into the unknown was one of excitement. But unfortunately the flip side of excitement is anxiety.” This concept is something that I experience on a daily basis. There have been points in my life, recently actually, where my anxiety about not knowing what the unknown will bring has made me physically sick. Staying present and intentional in the now is something that I consistently working on and this inspired me to continue to pursue that goal.

  9. Julia Feeser says:

    I enjoy the idea that this approaches regarding not worrying about the future, but simply knowing that it is there, and that currently, what we do now is more important. As an actress, I know well that getting stumped on a line or stage direction can throw off a lot if I don’t quickly fix it and forget that it happened. I also know that if I spend much time focusing on the lines I have far ahead of me, I lose essence in my acting and lines in the current moment. There is a lot of good insight here.

  10. Gwen H says:

    I like that you addressed that the flip side of excitement is anxiety. We have actually been talking about that a lot in my music classes. Before any performance, we are told to “get excited.” We transform that nervous energy into excitement; we make our stage fright stage presence. It goes along with what you said about being present in the moment instead of being anxious about the future.

  11. Lily Chavez says:

    My sibling and my mother have the same birthday too! I thought that was neat. I think teaching an acting class and giving advice to your students was probably very helpful for them. The imagine of you back in your childhood was good visual aid. It wraps the story up good.

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