Where Are You on Your Journey as an Actor?
One of my college professors recently posed this question to my class and me in the form of a brief essay assignment. This is what I wrote:
“As an actor and as an individual I find it increasingly helpful to remember that I can never know too much about life and the art that is contained within. Because of that, I am always growing as an actor. An actor (or a person) that stops growing, becomes stagnant. It is never in the service of life or art to stop learning.
So in response to “where am I” now, I will say I am between A and B. A is an entrance from somewhere and B is an exit to somewhere else. And as Tom Stoppard notes, “every exit is an entrance somewhere else.” So the cycle never really ends. The importance is being fully invested in where I am now, conscious of where I have been and mindful of where I would like to go.
I will tell you what I am in the process of learning (because I haven’t fully learned anything): I am learning that theatre is more a place for listening than talking. I am learning that a generous ensemble is more engaging to the actor and the audience than a self-indulgent individual. Feed-back and feed-forward (a constant shifting of energy between the actor, the other actors, and the audience) gives life to a play, a life that can change dramatically and unexpectedly in the hands of actors that listen and play. I am learning that theatre is an experience best shared and not shown. I am also learning that there is no one right way to do anything artistic. Art must happen, but we do not always know why or how. Meisner, Stanislavski, Viewpoints, Suzuki, Strasberg, Adler, Hagen, Grotowski, Noh, Kabuki, Commedia del’Arte, the list goes on. All I know is that “a work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity” (Rainer Maria Rilke). So if we are to make art, no matter how we make it, we must have a strong reason for doing so. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice I heard this summer was from Anne Bogart, attributed to Tadashi Suzuki: “There’s no such thing as good or bad acting, just variation in the profundity of your reason for doing it.” So perhaps the most important thing I am learning is this: If I am going to do something, I need to REALLY do it. If I say something, I need to MEAN it. If I am not engaging to watch, perhaps I am not engaging my reason to exist on stage. The world changes and so does art. Styles, techniques, methods, and even famous actors, playwrights, and directors come and go. Theatre is universal. Theatre is compelling when we engage it head on in the force of the moment. This is what I am learning.”