What it really means to be an actor.
These musings are for my acting students, for anyone dreaming of becoming an actor and for all the many great professional actors, who currently cannot see the light at the end of this dark COVID-19 tunnel. You will go back to work, and with it, I hope, a new understanding of the necessity for art in all it's glorious forms to soothe, stimulate and educate the human soul. Thank you. Your job is so important.
I may have spent nearly 25 years in the performing arts industry working as an actress but it’s only since transitioning into coaching and supporting the wellbeing and skillset of actors, that I’ve been able to take my experience, with the beauty of hindsight and really understand what it means to pursue this vocation.
In my humble opinion, acting is an incredibly noble, necessary, and crucial role to the lives of our societies.
Acting provides the opportunity for connection. We humans are designed for connection. Our mind seeks connection instinctively in order to survive.
An actor is a voice for the voiceless, feels and conveys the emotions for the numbed and truly does, to quote William Shakespeare; "hold, as t’were, the mirror up to nature".
Most people think being an actor is all about winning an Oscar, being famous, having interviews and photo shoots, and landing a seat on Graham Norton’s sofa!
Not only is that a mere 1% of all actors but it’s also the tip of the acting iceberg. Below the surface lies much more. There are many great amazing actors, working consistently hard on their craft, their business, themselves, that may never win the Oscar or see Mr Norton’s sofa, but still remain, quite possibly, the most resilient, emphatic, knowledgable, funny, patient and passionate souls you could ever wish to know.
So what do you need to be a great actor?
Well, it starts with talent.
And if talent means ‘having a special natural ability’, then this is the talent possessed by an actor…
An open minded, curious approach to life and an avid reader with a certain amount of knowledge on most subjects.
An empathy that surpasses the average person as they constantly observe every human’s behaviour to try and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be like them, questioning themselves with “what if I was in their shoes?”.
An unflinchingly honest self searching journey inwards, so they can best understand the many different behaviours found within themselves. The appealing light sparkly parts and the not so appealing dark shameful parts. Connecting to their truth so they can connect to the truth of a character and in doing so allowing the audience to connect to them.
Emotionally available and emotionally intelligent. They have taken steps to support their healing, their mental and emotional health and personal wellbeing.
They have a sound body that is flexible, healthy, responsive and free. They are fully connected to listening and trusting in the body’s gut feeling, heart opening, intuitive wisdom.
They have an imagination that can create something out of nothing. They have an innate connection to their senses, a powerful ability to focus while living very much in the present moment. They are comfortable with being uncomfortable.
They are financially solvent and savvy because they have to be. They have had to create their own sense of security while maintaining flexibility so they can audition and accept any acting work at the drop of a hat. They are the CEO of their own corporation. They are entrepreneurs and some of the most hard working people you could ever meet. Multi skilled and highly skilled, they know what it means to be an artist in a world where art is not supported but always desired.
They have all this talent and then….they have an unshakeable passion to be an actor.
Unshakeable against the endless rejections and sacrifices. Unshakeable because they have nurtured patience, persistence, resilience and determination, and all for what?
Well, to go after the fundamental dream of being able to make someone laugh or make someone cry or simply make someone feel that they are not alone in this big wide world.
Saving the arts is not about giving money to someone struggling as an actor, it’s more than that. It’s about saving a fundamental department that is crucial for the wellbeing, social understanding, relatability, inspiration and joy necessary for EVERYBODY!
And for all you actors or students of acting, I leave you with this...
If you have invested time, energy, and money into becoming a great actor, what you have invested in is a greater understanding of yourself and humanity. If only evryone made that investment, then I believe the world would be a much more accepting and emphatic place.
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