How Old Do I Look?
By Mikaela Krantz with admission of guilt by T3Writes editor, Kat Edwards
Y’all, I caught an actor talking about age.
This is actually a pretty relatable post from The Moors actor, Mikaela Krantz. People tend to think that I’m younger than I am, but more notably, I am that person that treats anybody younger than me, regardless of actual distance in age, like a child. You could be six months younger than me and you will still be my sweet sugar-honey-baby-angel. Maybe it’s my “mom” personality. Maybe it’s the innate Southernism that compels me to give everyone a pet name. Either way, it’s something that I should be better about.
I had a great time working on this one with Mikaela. This is some extremely interesting insight from a grown woman that is often projected to the public as a teenager.
I am a 30-year-old woman! I apologize for yelling, but it’s true! People are shocked when they hear this. I understand. I look young. What’s most disheartening is when they suddenly become quite distant, as if I had intentionally been lying to them and am only now revealing my true nature, even though they were the ones that made this unspoken assumption about me in the first place. How does age become such a defining characteristic to inquirers of such a question? To me, the associations with age have always been quite arbitrary. I’ve known extremely well-rounded, self-aware 10-year-olds and emotionally stilted, oblivious 45-year-olds. Actual numbers mean little to me.
In my experience, one’s age gets quite a different reaction from the acting world than the rest of the world. In a liberating way, the acting world couldn’t care less about how old I am. In a stifling way, the acting world couldn’t care less about how old I am.
A huge part of acting is expression that hits you visually and aurally. We, the theatre creators, focus on your eyes and ears. Well, what does this li’l blogger look like? A 15-year-old girl. But I have nieces and nephews about to graduate high school, my father is dealing with Alzheimer’s, I’ve had glimmers of transcendent self-actualization, heck, I own stocks! But when it comes to being cast in a show: my looks place me in a range anywhere from 14 (or 10 if I’m playing a boy) to maybe, maybe, 24.
At Hudson Valley Shakespeare, we were doing Troilus and Cressida and hadn’t cast Menelaus (King of the Trojans and Helen of Troy’s old, cuckolded husband.) They had me fill in, and I convinced the entire ensemble that I should play him. However, as the director said: I simply don’t look the part, and it would take the audience out of the world of the play. And that is something we never want. We want you all in, every step of the way. We want you immersed as we ourselves are immersed. You’ve probably heard the phrase “suspension of disbelief.” We want your disbelief good and suspended. There’s no room for it when we’re out there trying to fill the space with magic! And my director was speaking an unsavory truth: I don’t look like a 70-year-old Grecian King.
In fact, Huldey (the younger of the two sisters from The Moors) is probably the “oldest” character I’ve played that wasn’t some sort of immortal, magical being. Huldey is the first muggle human being that may well be older than me. We’ve pegged her at about 34? 35? And even so, she ACTS like she’s still 16 because she grew up utterly isolated from society and was spoiled rotten by her older brother and departed father. So, really, it’s the same energy as any other 16-year-old. (See what I mean about that number being arbitrary?)
But this goes back to the weird reactions I get from average people I interact with outside of the theatre world, the very people who happen to populate our audiences. If those people react so betrayed by the realization of my being a decade plus older than I look, how are we to hold back their skepticism during our night of immersive storytelling, when what we want is to suck them in completely. To paraphrase the smart-mouthed Emilia from Shakespeare’s Othello: The typecasting of me from the acting world, your reactions of me teach them so. (horrible paraphrasing on my part, to be sure, but it makes the point.)
Now, as you may or may not have heard, I also do a lot of voice over work for Anime TV shows, through a well-known production company called Funimation. Well, ladies and gents, voice over work takes my looks completely out of the casting process! And luckily, that has expanded my range of characters, immensely. I have had a lot of vocal training over the years, and I know how to shift where my sound is coming from or how to reproduce a variety of dialects. Often, I’ll nerd out on mastering a new accent or regional lilt, just for funsies. And Funimation has allowed me to get paid for such past-times! Now, typically, I have to pitch up my voice to play the PLETHORA of young, teenage girl characters that are sprinkled into these shows like glitter on a Mardi Gras mask, but I’ve also been able to play several of the young boy versions of the leading male roles. Now, I’m well versed in how to play young boys and teen girls from being on stage, but where I really get to stretch myself is when Funimation casts me as an older woman like a mother or a teacher, even a grandmother. Or when I’m cast as a Russian assassin or a UN negotiator designated to represent the entire human race or a gender-bending German Nazi eunuch! These characters live rich, full lives. They deal with loss and pain and trauma and betrayal, they may even experience events like the extermination of their race, or their whole timeline being torn apart by unseen, malicious forces. Onstage, I can’t play a 3-year-old child running the streets of a small village in Mexico or a buxom mother of eight who toils daily among the corn fields with her family. I can’t embody these people with the body that I have. But when all they need is my voice, these characters are not barred to me. And because I am a 30-year-old woman that has lived a rich and full life, I can use the experiences of these past decades to help a teenage girl character find her confidence or fall in love for the first time. I can reach a depth that perhaps an actual teenage girl, who hasn’t yet had the time for expanded perception and self-reflection, can’t reach.
The acting world doesn’t care how many years you’ve been on this planet. It cares what the world understands these numbers to mean when associated with a certain look or a certain voice. But, I’m noticing a shift in this “Age Zeitgeist” we live in. More and more frequently, I hear the previously taboo question being asked: “How old are you?” And, with a sly grin, I hear the same, whimsical response: “How old do I look?”
Mikaela is excellent in as Huldey in our current production of The Moors. We close on November 18th so this is your LAST CHANCE to see her. Don’t miss out!