Don’t Force Yourself into Anything - Magdalena Vokáčová

Don’t Force Yourself into Anything

Not many people would believe the reason why I originally went to study drama. I love life and I adore literature. It seemed to me that dramatic art somewhat connected the two, so I could live different lives on stage and at the same time work with intelligent texts. I’ve always enjoyed singing, dancing, drawing and particularly speaking and reading … and it seemed to me that all of these activities are associated with acting. Roughly at the same time when other girls grew out of their childish dreams of being famous actresses, singers and models and started looking around for more respectable jobs, I decided to study dramatic art. My intellectual mother was pulling her hair out in frustration. For my mum acting was the absolutely worst discipline I could have chosen to study. In my mum’s eyes the career of an actress was better only than that of a model or prostitute. To make my mother’s nightmare come true, I was studying dramatic art, left Prague and was earning some money as a model. I left out the prostitution.

As early as the first year I discovered that pure acting was not the right choice for me. I participated in filming under a certain famous director. My role was to play a naive math student, whose teacher was trying to seduce her. The script contained several stupid phrases which showed only too well that the person who had written the text apparently had never seen a twenty-year old girl close-up. I adjusted the sentences to be a bit more plausible. “Stop!” shouted the director. “What have you got in that script? Say it exactly as it is written in it.” “But no twenty-year old would say anything like that,” I argued, surprised by his heated response. “But you are going to say it like that!” “But why?” At that point I was afraid he would pounce on me. “Because I am the director and you are an actress!” “Well, I’m probably not an actress,” I said loudly and then added to myself, because I won’t obey anyone who is even dumber than me!

Up to this day I remember the feeling of relief when I was leaving the film studio in Klimentská Street. I had just turned twenty and I was aware that admittedly I didn’t know at all who I was and what I was going to do, but I knew for sure I wasn’t an actress.

The question of who I was regularly reoccurred in my head and I was happy to discover that theatrical improvisation gave me space for exploring the answers to my question of who I was and where my talents lay. Until then I had completed a number of seminars focused on psychology and personal development, but the improvisation, which was my compulsory school subject, helped me to learn more about myself without suffering and sadness but with joy, laughter and humour.

Our improvisation teacher was the unforgettable Hanka Smrčková, an acting legend of the Theatre on the Balustrade (Divadlo na zábradlí) in the era of the director Schorm. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Hanka was my most important life coach. I would like to pass on two recommendations that she gave me: “Never compare yourself with anybody” and “Don’t force yourself into anything!” Contrary to classical acting, improvisation captivated me so much that in time I visited several foreign workshops. Nonetheless I’ll never forget the fundamentals I learnt from Hanka!

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