Friday, September 27, 2013

How To Find Inspiration As An Actor

All too often, I feel like the stick figure in this picture.  In my acting class this week, we had a discussion that inspired  me (ha!) to write this blog for our community.  What struck me most is the need for us as actors to generate our own inspiration by focusing our efforts on what we want to do, rather than how it is received.  Otherwise, it's too easy to fall into a pit of self-doubt and despair in this largely unforgiving and cutthroat world of show business.  After all, what the heck are we doing with our lives?  And who are we to do it?  The questions go on and on.

As a self-producer, it's especially important to feed your own fire.  As The Seeing Place chose our 5th Season, we took our cues mainly from what stories we wanted to tell about the world we're living in.  We got lucky this year and were granted the rights to most of our first choices.  But we have to start from ourselves and what we love - and hope people get on board.  If we pander to what people want to see, we remove our voice from the equation.  And as soon as we do that, it's no longer an artistic pursuit.

How does that relate to you?  Let's go outside of acting for a moment.  Imagine you're a painter.  If people don't like what you do, are you going to stop painting?  No.  When you're painting at home, are you worried about what people are going to say about it?  I hope not.  You do your art for you.  As a painter, you have to approach your canvas with something you have to say and hope that people like it.  As soon as you do art for others, it becomes decoration.  Many actors treat themselves like decorators, rather than artists.

This is a rough business.  As we all know, actors are a dime a dozen.  We are largely taught to satisfy the visions of the director and the playwright - rather than to share our own.  In fact, warning signals tend to go off when this kind of discussion comes up.  But it is possible to satisfy a production without giving yourself up in the process.  You just have to take your direction and try to accomplish it your way to the best of your abilities. 

First and foremost, it is necessary for the actor to nourish his or her own spirit.  Any of us can easily be marionettes and deliver the goods.  But if we focus solely on the product, we leave ourselves out of our own work.  And if we don't derive satisfaction from within, we can only hope to get it from others.  In that case, my work can only satisfy me if other people like it and give me validation.  But in my experience, validation doesn't give me any personal satisfaction.  However, when I share from myself and tell my story with the material, then even if I don't get the big applause, I know that I have made an impact.  I know I did my part.  That is real satisfaction.

We tend to think of self-satisfying actors as being self-serving, self-indulgent, and unprofessional; however, these are exactly the kind of artists we celebrate.  Some prime examples are Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I don't think anyone could accuse them of being anything other than generous artists. And what makes them generous is that they share themselves.  There's nothing wrong with having something to say.

These are the very reasons we created The Seeing Place - to give actors a place to do their work.  We take special care to make sure that every actor brings a personal stamp on their work to share with our audiences.  The playwright and director are not the only storytellers in our theater.  We all take on that responsibility together.  To see what exciting stories we'll be sharing this season click here!

We'd love to hear how YOU find your inspiration and what you do to keep your spirit motivated.  Please do leave a comment and join the conversation.  Acting is a lonely business.  Let's be a community for one another!