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Open Access Publications from the University of California

To Repair With Gold

  • Author(s): McGehee, Mary Katherine
  • Advisor(s): Donnelly, Kyle
  • et al.

There is a Japanese word, "kintsukuroi," meaning "to repair with gold; the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken." This definition signifies perhaps the most important lesson I have learned in my three years here as an actor.

Breaking is a crucial part of the acting process. Breaking apart, breaking down, breaking away--it all contributes to making those important discoveries on the way to opening night and beyond.

I had a director recently give me this note about my performance: "That is the way you should never perform it." I ended up in the bathroom, on the floor, mascara dripping, beating myself up over everything he believed I did wrong. Broken and breaking apart. So later, when I found I could wipe the tears away and smile, I approached the work with a new vigor and curiosity. I imagined how I might take the pieces that had fallen away and fashion them into something new. What was born from that could not be exactly what my director had envisioned, it never is, but it was a performance no one but myself could give, one from the deepest part of my being--and I took ownership of the beauty in its imperfections in a way I have never done before in my life.

As an actor, I must be willing to leap into the unknown. I understand I must be vulnerable and open to being broken apart. But, like Japanese pottery repaired with gold, I now know I will be more beautiful for having been broken.

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