I found an old paper I had to write about myself back when I studied at The College of Southern Maryland. I really wish I could back in time and tell Kenny of 2012 "Hey, it all works out! Just keep pushing!" I honestly believed I never would get a Bachelor's Degree. Now I have one, with me looking into possible Master's Programs. I told myself I wouldn't pursue a Master's until I go out into the world and try things out first. After reading this, it reminded me what I love about theater.
What Is It About A Man?
What is it about a man? What is his motivation? What is his purpose? What is his goal? What defines a man's character? Who? What? Where? When? Why? There are times in an actor's life when he must look at himself from an actor’s stand point. An actor must ask the questions about himself. Who am I? What do I want? Where am I going? When will I know I have reached that place? Why do I want this for my life? I found myself asking those same questions. Trying to uncover the character that I am. Trying to figure out my place in this world and in the business. But first I have to answer, what is it about a man?
Who am I?
This is a question that I thought was very simple. I'm Kenneth Levester Waters, Jr. born in Cheverly, Maryland on the ninetieth of August in the summer of '82. Parent are Kenneth Levester Waters, Sr. and Addie Lorraine Waters (at the time). The only one of my brothers to have been born in wedlock. In the deeper layers, I'm African American. I'm a male, which is pretty obvious. I'm also homosexual. But I don't let that define me. It’s a label that society has placed negative connotations on, and I refuse to fall into the trap of stereotypes. As an actor, I'm very shy and timid at first. If the subject doesn't immediately jump out at me or if the character doesn’t speak to me, I read it flat, without emotion, until I get a better understanding of what it is that I am reading and playing. This comes across as being unsure. But I assure you, it’s just me trying to get my feet wet before diving into the deep end. I find myself comparing my style of acting to those of my peers. When in fact, I know I'm better than my peers. My peers are very one dimensional. They don't have the knowledge and life experience that I have. None of them knew what it was like to work as a Go-Go Boy in an underground nightclub in Baltimore where men from all walks of life would beg you to come home with them. Of course being the shy 18 year old, and knowing that my mother didn't raise a fool, I ignored their advances. But gladly took whatever money they shoved into my Ralph Lauren underwear. They don't know what it’s like to be high on E. They don't know what it’s like to be in a loving relationship, then to find out that the man you thought you loved has been secretly engaged to a woman and that they were getting married four months later. On top of that, his mother, which of whom has been either not noticing or ignoring our relationship, asks you to be his Best Man. The speech was incredible. Academy Award worthy. After that I found myself wanting nothing more than to become one with the Earth. Tried three times. Of course since I'm writing this, I did fail. But what does all of this has to do with acting? Emotional Recall. Thank you Uda Hagen for putting a name to it. Her teachings were simply mind opening. I had so much in my past to pull from that I couldn't run out of things in my vault of past emotions. The only issue that I have come up with is how to turn it off. Luckily, I have been doing meditations to close those doors that were so forced opened.
During KCATCF I learned another thing about me. I didn't realized it until I started reading (well listening, because I got the book from Audible.com) Uda's Respect For Acting, that I shouldn't compare myself to anyone. How I portray a character and how someone else portrays that same character doesn’t necessarily mean that I am doing it wrong, it just means that it is a different take on it. Being paired with Jeremy Keith Hunter was probably the most nerve- wrecking and exciting event that has happened this semester. He and I work so well off of each other. But at the same time, that's our weakness. Our Irene Ryan Set was flawed because of that. We were so comfortable with each other that we forgot the simplest things, such as setting, time, who are we, what are we. Simply put, The Who, What, Where, When, and Why. If we had established that right from the start, we would have gotten far. Now I wouldn’t say we would have won, but we would have made it to the third round at least. But working off of Jeremy made me open my eyes a little bit more. I started to break down his acting style. Dissect it if you will. What made him so good? Physically, he fits the part of almost any black male. He would kill as Shakespeare's "Othello", he would move you to tears as Wilson's "Troy Maxon". Both powerhouse roles. Both roles that I also see myself playing. But what is it that I would bring to the characters instead of Jeremy? The emotion behind the power. The reasoning behind the character's wants. I know how to show it in my eyes. A gift that I picked up from my mother. But in his own right, he would being the power physically, where as I would bring it emotionally. Which one is more important? Neither. They are equally as important. I need to step up my game and work on my physicality.
Who am I? I am a man that has so much life experience that I need to let go and portray the parts like I know how to do and stop holding back.
What Do I Want?
After careful thought and consideration, I think I discovered what I want. During "Empty Chair", I spent time with each cast member separately to help them understand their characters. I know that it’s bad to put too much of yourself into a role or to use a role or show as therapy. Theater isn't a place for therapeutic help. But, I used this time to help me with my demons. Each character was a little bit of myself. After reading the script, I realized that I was at one point in my life, to some degree, each speaker. Coming from a family background of drugs and alcohol and abuse on all three levels, I understood. I was able to help relate that to my actors. I loved directing, but what I think I loved most of all, was teaching. I guess directing and teaching pretty much goes hand and hand. You don't want to tell them what you want, you have to let them reach that level themselves, otherwise, what have they learned? Empty Chair was helpful as I was able to talk to people about things that I never said to another human being, granted I just said it in this paper. I guess once it got off my chest, it was a little easier to grasp. But the aspect of Empty Chair that affected me at every rehearsal and every show was the name of the character that never was seen, but their presence was felt, Robert. In the show the character's name was Robert Bradbury, but in my head, it was Robert "Bobby" Balint. It shocked me that both of them shared the same initials. But what shocked me the most, was how I used this show as a means of letting go. Officially letting go. Death is a crazy thing, and it is so unexplainable, but yet so conventional. It happens every day. It happens when you least expect it. Young or old, fit or obese, white or black, it happens to everyone. Morbidly speaking we, live to die! The only thing you can take from death, ironically, is to live on. Keep them in your thoughts and live on. Empty Chair will forever be with me for that purpose. As a constant reminder to live on.
My cast was amazing. I enjoyed their energy and their dedication to their parts. I took one rehearsal and we just went around the room and discussed the show in general. Created the back story for each character, and watching them bring the show to life. The ending monologue that Simone’s character does, Robert's Obituary, really confused the cast. As a writer, every word means something, rather you mean it to or not. With how I cast the show, the monologue made sense. It was like I knew what I was doing. Once I broke the monologue down for them and told them which part was actually meant for them, it clicked in their heads. They started to cry. It was seriously the greatest moment I had so far in theater! Watching all of them get it and understand it. To delve deeper into their characters, I told each of them to think of their own Robert. Being the person that I am, there were three roles that I cast that I felt needed to be those parts to help them through their current life situations.
Like we did at every Cause Theater Production, or at least I thought we are supposed to, go figure, we did a talk back at the Laplata Campus. An audience member, with tears still in their eyes asked us how were we able to pull of this show? What helped us along and who was Robert? We were so convincing that people thought two things, that Robert was a real person, and that the cast was actually on their drugs of choice. The show really touched the guy who asked the question. After the show, I saw him go to the table that had all the information about NA and AA meetings and write it all down. To me, that is what Cause Theater is all about. Helping people. Bringing the real life right to them. Showing them that a change was needed.
What do I want, I want to be a director and a teacher.
Where Am I Going?
At first it took me a moment to understand exactly where I am going. I looked at it as a physical place instead of an internal place. During this time frame I started thinking of colleges. Well actually, I started to think about colleges after KCACTF. So many schools were there, but how do I know which one is right for me? I had to figure out what I wanted to go there for and what I wanted my minor to be. Do I go for Theatre and Dance and have a minor in Business? Or do I go for Theatre and Dance and have a minor in Secondary Education? Without lying in what is becoming an essay into my soul, I have not started to officially look. I believe once I find it within myself what I truly want to go for, I will have the motivation to achieve greatness because it’s earned, and not given.
Where am I going? I don't know yet. But I know that I do not want to be lost any longer. I need to focus on one or two aspects and go from there.
When will I know I have reached that place?
Shakespeare and Old English have always been one of my struggles. I don't understand it, well I should say I didn't understand it, until the Renaissance Fair. When first cast in "Everyman", I was ecstatic! Finally I get to be apart of a true classic! A show that not many actors can say that they had the pleasure of being a part of. When I got the script and I started to read it, I had a very difficult time. I had an even worse time trying to memorize it! Now, I'm not sure if that was because I was doing 3 shows at the same time or if I was just being lazy? I'm going to choose the 3 shows at the same time! Final week, just days before we opened, I sat on the back dock with Kendall and all we did was run my lines. It was simple! I couldn't believe how open and receptive my mind was with the whole thing. I was able to understand it and learn it with ease! All I needed was someone else and to say them out loud. It was really refreshing! Once I got the lines, I was able to reach a place within myself and the show to fully get what I was doing and saying.
I reached that place where I was no longer regurgitating lines, but actually being the lines. It was a really beautiful moment.
Why do I want this for my life?
I tried to imagine my life without theater. I can say this, I know I would still be working for RadioShack and probably a District Manager by now. I would be making over 90k a year before the age of 30. I quit because theater is my passion. I go to sleep singing a song, I wake up reciting a line or a phrase of a show I've seen or been in. Theater is in my soul. It’s not a matter of why it’s a matter of why not! I fit in theater like a glove that pulls the ropes in the fly system, like a costume that is on an actor, like a lamp in a Source 4, like a page in a stage manager's binder. Theater is my everything. I want it to be my vocation is one way shape or form. Being apart of the acting class made me realize something. Something that I knew, but didn't really reach out and do. I'm good at being a mentor. I'm good at helping my fellow actors! I helped to choose the scenes and monologues for half the class! KCATCF, I choose the scenes for Charles and Alexis! With Robert, I choose all of his monologues and told him to learn them and I helped him through the process, and watching his light bulb turn on put a smile on my face. I want this for my life, because this is something that I believe the generation after me has long forgotten. The joy and the passion that comes from being on stage, or working on a show, or designing a light plot or set. The joy of directing and watching what you put together come to life, only to be torn apart by critics! I want that! It will only help me grow as a person and as an actor. This is what I want to be. This is where I need to be. I wouldn't have quit my job and taking a job making less than 15k a year to do this. I see myself going far and being successful. I see myself helping to encourage those along the way. Theater is like a religion. Some people get it and some people don't! It’s our job to preach and give a message to society. Theater is such a powerful tool of communication. Seeing something live on a stage or even in a class room makes the audience think it’s really happening before their very eyes and it loses them in it. That's powerful! That's the magic of live theater.
That's why I want this for my life, not for the fame and glory, but to help people and to give them a way to express themselves.
Now I know at this point you are wondering why I wrote this long drawn out essay or thesis. It’s to show that I did learn. I have learned a lot this school year that I've had in my 12 years of doing theater. I truly believe that I have now reached past my plateau and am able to truly start to grow. I can't wait to see what the future holds, but I know that I hold the ticket to take the journey. It’s not going to be forced upon me, I have to truly want it and earn
I'm proud to say I am a college graduate, with a much clearer vision of where I am going, who I am, and what is it about THIS man. It has been several years of discovery with many more to go! Praise God and thank you for the blessings.
I'm a guy blogging about what he loves to do, perform. Also, I may post about other things, like shows I see, events I go to, stuff like that! Or just random musings.
If nothing else, the performance of Kenneth L. Waters, Jr. make this a must-see experience. Waters portrays Mitch, the “comfort counselor.” Mitch is completing his community service hours by performing this job at the Bee. Waters was so convincing that I first wondered if he was just really this type of character in real life. The major brilliance of the performance by Waters is fully revealed when he also play the one of fathers to one of the characters. Waters transforms from knife-wielding thug to cake-baking nurturer. Waters even further shows his amazing technique and skill when he briefly plays a different character’s father and just as seamlessly transforms into a third, completely different character. Waters demonstrated strong vocals and he has an especially rich and pleasing tone. Overall, one of the best performances that I have seen in local theater." - a review on 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with Tantallon Players from Showbiz Radio