“I have some things on my mind right now.”
It isn’t every day that you stumble upon the opportunity to play one of the most infamous antihero’s of a generation. So before I go any further- truthfully, I’d be lying if I said this were any old two act romp in the barn for me. It’s different. Much different.
I’ll never forget the day I was handed an offer sheet and saw the name “Benjamin Braddock” next to mine. The first feelings that came to the surface of my chest were a maelstrom of excitement and anticipation, memories of an actor I idolized in his breakout performance, a rock of a film I had watched through my teen years and analyzed at the university level…
That excitement was great until it shortly turned itself into a not too complex compound of… Well, great white fear.It wasn’t long before I discovered what I can learn from Benjamin, as well as how “Benjamin Braddock Syndrome” exists within us all. I decided early on that I would work with a great sense of responsibility to honor not only Benjamin Braddock, but his all too identifiable syndrome. Benjamin is more than an antihero, he’s a feeling. He represents something more than a 21 year old goofball who gets caught on wrong side of a mountainous affair.
We’ve all been there. Maybe far too often. Transitions, new paths, growing up, self discovery, self examination, regret, feeling lost, disillusioned, disenchanted… Somewhere deep down all of us would probably prefer to be floating on a raft in the Southern California sun with a cold tallboy, just like our guy Ben. It beats the alternative, right?
Once I discovered and realized that my job was not only to honor Benjamin, but the feeling and condition he represents… I came to the realization that I would need to get back to my basics, my principals, or as I call them…my “ride or dies of acting.”
My three “ride or dies” are what I make an effort to bring to every role, every process, and even aspects of my everyday life. They have stuck with me through the dark and light, and whenever I feel lost, they give me great comfort in knowing that I’ll somehow find a way.
And it’s probably all bullshit, but hey, I believe it and it works for me and goddammit you’ve read this far.
1. Can you do the work?
Believe it or not, there are bigger things than the memorization of text and where to stand on stage. Not to say that those aren’t important, but to me, the text will always remain the river. Flowing steady, and changing only at its bends. That’s just the river, everything else is you on a boat, riding downstream. The inside stuff. The everything else. And there’s a lot of the “everything else.” There’s the need to harness the feeling of Benjamin Braddock. There’s a need to dig through source material and to keep it by your side at all times. In terms more plain, there’s more work to be had than what line comes next and where your next entrance or exit might be. There is a world of a play, or in this case, a legendary piece of Americana that needs to be honored. Deeply. With honesty and integrity. There’s number 1. The work, the work, the work. The world of the play always grounds you. The trick is to get to know it so well that you eat, breathe, sleep, love, hurt and succeed within it.
2. Can you make it about the other person?
I didn’t learn this lesson in acting until later in life. And it’s one I need to back and revisit quite frequently. I realized I was acting selfishly in my late teens and early twenties and had to work to find balance and to honor my scene partner(s). We are all reflections and perceptions. Not only in every day life but on stage as well. Elaine’s Benjamin is different than Mrs. Robinson’s Benjamin. Just like you and I are dynamic as we weave through life’s relationships. It isn’t about you, it’s about what you want from the other person. What you want them to see, and who you want to be to them. The other, the other, the other. Act unselfishly. It will go further than showing everyone how loud and fast YOU can be. You should do it for your cast, your team. If you are doing it solely for you, it will show.
As a youngster I remember staying up late and watching an episode of Inside the Actors Studio and will never forget one of my personal idols, John Cusack’s words on vulnerability. He spoke profoundly on why vulnerability isn’t only essential, it is also forever valuable, and is a human quality we typically try to stifle so those around us don’t perceive us as “soft.”
On stage, the part of you that you desire to show the least is always going to be the part of you that does the best, that releases the most power, and that lets the audience as well as your scene partner(s) in. The process has to be trusted. Sometimes you might cry on the drive home from a tough rehearsal. Sometimes your chest may cave in, and you’ll say to yourself, “wow, there it is.” Sometimes you dominate, and sometimes you struggle and flounder. Building up walls around who we are isn’t only a limited way to live, it’s a limited way to act.
The part of you that you desire to show the least will always be the part of you that will be the most powerful. I’m scared. I want to show you that.
Do your best, be selfless, be open.
I’ll see you out there!
Eric St. Cyr
Bag&Baggage Associate Artist