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  • Kearstyn (Kiki) Keller

Dear Catherine: A Discovery of Doubt


Hello Unique Beasts! I just recently closed a production of David Auburn's Proof. Usually I write some sappy post on Facebook about my experience and move along. But this production, this character, needed time and tender examination. I was gifted with more than I could have possibly imagined! I ate, slept, breathed, and lived in this play with every free moment that I had for four months. Now that I have plopped out on the other side I realize the weight of this valuable journey. I thought I would write a letter to Catherine (the character that I played) explaining what a gift she was for me. So, here it goes!

Dear Catherine,

When I enter a new project I always expect to learn something. Before starting rehearsals I remember thinking how blessed I was to dive into this role at this time of my life. A time that was urging me to embrace my strength. You were strong, fearless, spunky, you took no shit! Oh, how WRONG I was! You, of course, had those qualities, but you were so much more complex. I tried to find myself in the world through many avenues. I tried many different angles. My usual ways in were not working! It was frustrating! I was missing a key element!

One day, about almost 3 weeks in...it hit me. Like a freight train barreling at break neck speed and suddenly stops, it appeared. It made all of the pieces click together, the words became inevitable, I suddenly had clear actions that I wanted to work on with my partner. After weeks of questions, blocking, or crying to my roommate saying, "I don't think that I can do this." The key to unlock it all was DOUBT.

As soon as I discovered this, I immediately wanted to run in the opposite direction! A wave of clarity washed over the passed weeks. Why the weeks of working and digging felt disgusting. Why as soon as I would start working I would want to quit! I didn't want to do it!

I was afraid, I had doubt!

I started musing on where it came from. My doubt? Yours? Was it self-inflicted, external, or both? I was terrified to dive in. Generally I like to remain in the positive and light parts of myself...I am comfortable there. Since emerging into the professional theatre world there have been many insecurities that have crept in. Can I do it? Am I worth taking a chance on? Can I do my craft, or was everyone lying to me all these years (a stretch...but no one said this was logical thinking)? All things that I knew I could do suddenly became terrifying to do, because what if they actually weren't true or (more pointedly like the play) weren't there.

I came to realize that the things we doubt the most, things deep within the crevasse of our soul that etch who we are, are the things that we care about the most. Because we can hurt from disappointment, more so from predicted disappointment because that can take you down a rabbit hole of imaginary pain. That build up - that pressure that is placed on you can hurt, and sometimes it comes from others or things outside yourself in the form of "potential". When does your doubt become someone else's? When does the opinions you feed yourself form on the tongue of another? When I asked this for the play, the idea to live your life based on others opinions seemed "easier" than to reach out for your own. Reaching requires trusting the unknown. You do not have a person there to lean on, to blame, to hide behind. It is scary, unpredictable, and lonely.

I go into detail because these thoughts (a discovery of doubt) led me to you. You were not the strong independent Catherine that I envisioned. Instead you were the shadow side, the side that is conflicted and fighting from being hidden and wanting to stay hid. Defending yourself but terrified to admit who you are. I had to pry open myself to release my doubt and expose it on the stage. To invite others in to witness this savage wolf pup - that wasn't sure if it wanted to be pet of growling nose to nose. It was a messy, vulnerable, terrifying, and confusing state I found you in - hiding and jumping out announcing "Here I am!" at the same time. But by the end, IT WAS EXHAUSTING AND EXHILARATING!

Among all this I learned the bravery it takes to challenge yourself. To go toe to toe with your fear, doubt, and others' opinions and say, "No! I CAN do it. The potential. you speak of, is NOW!" I discovered the guts, strength, vulnerability, hands-up-surrender that you need to grab your life.

All of this is more than I could have hoped, and I barely scratched the surface!

YOU MADE ME BRAVE.

Thank you for leading me to the darker places (it has been awhile). Instead of running from my doubt I walked hand in hand with it and we unmasked layers that I had not yet found.

In observation I reflected on my own life. There are qualities that I admire in you that I want to practice. There is something to be said for the 'silent doer'. The kind of person who works out of the spotlight to uncover something deeper than themselves. I want to continue this in my own life. To be guided by my hunger and not blocked by selfish gain. I want to live- knowing I am not running/hiding - instead I am silently hurling myself into my destiny. In the quiet and hustle there is only you. The person you are forced to lean on and trust is yourself. And that is the biggest lesson of all, TRUST. My own certainty matters most.

The show is over, but it will always be there. Every character I have ever played lives in me, teaching me lessons and shining light into shadows that I have not yet examined.

Catherine, you are my mind, my intellect, and my fire. You will always be with me urging me to not settle for potential and to honor my doubt and tell it FUCK YOU!

Thank you for the journey, YOUR NOBLEST COURAGE, QUIET EXTRAORDINARY TALENTS, AND SUPERIOR GENIUS.

Love,

Kearstyn


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