2 min read

Acting from Querencia

We aren't fans of bullfighting, however, we appreciate a concept drawn from its arena.

In the wild, few people would put their money on the human in a man vs. bull standoff ("man" used here to represent all genders). Yet, drop them into a sand ring, throw in a few thousand spectators, and train the human in methods of agitation and distraction, and the odds swiftly swing the other way. As long as the matador keeps the bull confused, off-balance, and reactive, they have the upper hand.

A small — but significant — caveat to this is if the bull finds its querencia. This is an area within the ring the bull comes to identify as a refuge amidst the movement and noise. From querencia, the bull can regain its clarity, strength, and power. By stepping back from the hoopla, the odds quickly slide back in favour of the animal.

In other words, a bull finding its querencia is very bad news for a matador. Hence all the methods of agitation and distraction (we're looking at you, annoying red cape).

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As you may have guessed from all the references to bullfighting and matadors, querencia is a Spanish word. As our Spanish-speaking Dojo homies would know, querencia doesn't have a precise English translation, but we love author Barry Lopez's attempt:

"A place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one's strength of character is drawn, a place in which we know exactly who we are, the place from which we speak our deepest beliefs."[1]

Traditionally, querencia referred to a physical place but has now grown to capture metaphorical places too. And it is in this sense that we'd like to explore its application to the actor's path.

As actors, we can often feel like a bull in the arena, overwhelmed by the odds stacked against us, the commotion of spectators, and all the damn distractions being waved in front of our faces.

Unfortunately, elements of our industry benefit from keeping us off-centre — much like punters with lots of dolla bills on the matador. So, until the industry moves away from these fear-based power plays, we have to take responsibility and empower ourselves. Our offer here is that, in addition to getting our sleep, diet, movement etc., on lock, we'd be wise to locate — and frequently return back to — our querencia.

Where's yours?

As querencia has now evolved into a metaphysical concept, we can choose to find it anywhere. There's no right or wrong "location". In fact, these refuges may change over time, and we may even have multiple at once.

It's likely we already know where our metaphorical querencia(s) are — even if only subconsciously — but some common themes include:

  • Art (non-goal-directed)
  • Music (non-goal-directed)
  • Journaling
  • Nature
  • Meditation
  • Places of worship
  • Close relationships

Again, our choice of place matters far less than the fact that we have one (or three). Don't overthink it. When you've found querencia, you'll know.

Ferdinand gif

The (current) state of our industry is such that we'll likely still feel like the bull in the arena on occasion. But let's control the controllables. Instead of spending the majority of our actor life chasing red, the recommendation — both for improved performance and well-being — is to make querencia our home and commit to living from there as much as possibly possible.

Empowered actors, like wild bulls, are formidable creatures indeed.

Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.

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[1] https://amzn.to/3YyROJW