Building Bridges: Character Research and Acting Internship in Vampyr: The blood is the Life
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My initial challenge was to connect with a character I found very foreign and outside of myself. As an actor, one is asked to play many roles that are opposing to one's personality or nature, yet there are a few special roles in an actor's life, in which she needs to make a special effort in order to find the character within herself. An actor who never drinks alcoholic drinks and is vehemently opposed drinking is liable to have a more difficult time playing an alcoholic than someone who has had alcoholic beverages before. It is not the fact that she has not had an alcoholic drink that hinders her, her imagination and observational skills can bridge that. It is the fact that she is vehemently opposed to drinking that makes her transition tougher. She must overcome these primary beliefs that she has always held in order to act believably. Similarly, I had a very difficult transition from Hindu woman to Christian woman. To fully understand Minnie Westendra within the play, I first decided to study her connection to the vampire. I had to understand Minnie's battles with the blood drinker, her attractions to the so called "beast" and the vampires within her own soul. To recognize these struggles and relate them to my own life, I researched the definition of the vampire and the entire concept of a creature who drinks blood. I had to find the interest in myself and in society to them. For me, this interest lay somewhere in my own rich cultural background. To understand my own personal fascination for a taste of the "demon", I researched the vampires in Hindu mythology. Hinduism, an integral part of my being since my childhood, has several colorful legends about pisacas and baitals (vampires). I felt that if there were a common ground between Minnie and I, the root of it lay within these legends. These stories, rich in detail, became fertile grounds for research. The choices I made based on this research not only supported and enriched my character but connected me to her. Through these readings, I felt more in tune with her frustrations with a sexist unjust society, her fears of the unknown - the different, and her overwhelming fascination and attraction to the mysterious, the free. I, like Minnie, found myself enchanted by this vampire lore. Through Hindu mythology I found a deeper connection between American culture's storybook monster and the Asian American woman that I am. I found that the differences between a modest, virtuous, traditional, Christian woman of the 1900's and a rebellious feminist, somewhat lost "generation x" Hindu woman of the 1990's seem minor once you feel the hot seducing breath of a timeless, ageless predator burning at your throat, softly whispering the promise of utter freedom.
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