Required contextual disclosure thingy: I have trained to be an actor, and have many friends who have also trained to be actors, and it has caused us much confusion – how to succeed in a judgemental, blah-blah industry, particularly without feeling like huge failures.
Also I create training programs, and write (clearly), and do other stuff and things, all of which has to do with the creative process.
Coming to the point...
You cannot work for a high standard and popularity at the same time; the more you pursue the truth of your own genuine self, the less broad your appeal will become. It’s not that they are mutually exclusive in-and-of themselves, but you cannot have your focus split this way. The more you are truly, uniquely and genuinely you, the less you feel you will be able to achieve, because you’ll be chosen less often, your ideas will be shot down more regularly, and generally you’ll feel like a failure, because you’ll notice that you start to find yourself – well – not fitting in. You’ll start to feel alone.
But it’s the only way to be true and genuinely you. What they don’t tell you at acting school is that when you’re good – when you’re really great – you won’t actually be cast in things. Not because you’re a bad actor, but because you’re a good one. When you express the truth of your soul, and your uniqueness as an individual, you’ll notice that there are many roles you simply aren’t suited for.
We think – we are taught – that means we’re a bad actor, but that’s not the truth. Playing to any situation, ‘putting on a mask’, ‘inhabiting a character’ and otherwise ‘wowing’ people with good quality technique and discipline, this reaveals nothing. It reveals no truth nor uniqueness. We have all seen otherwise good actors play badly at a character they are not suited for. The more you discover your own genuine nature, the better you become at playing to your strengths, and the worse you become at pleasing the casting panel. Because you can’t fake truth. That is – I think – what’s at the heart of ‘the method’.
But you do become more memorable, if that’s worth anything.
The thing is, who you are can’t be taught. They have to teach us something at school, so they keep coming back to some sort of technique, disguising acting as ‘the work’, rather than revealing that it is only to be, and people start to talk about that mysterious thing called talent. Charisma. Do you have the fabled it? As if it was actually possible not to have it? Is it any wonder that all charismatic people are unashamedly themselves? What are you trying not to be, in your quest to be something else? Don’t hide who you are behind a mask of technique.
Of course you have it. The mysterious ‘it’ is character, it’s humanity, it’s that which engages our soul. We all have that. It’s a fucking no-brainer, but we’re taught that it’s some mysterious, amorphous blob that exists in some magical world, and that you can only have ‘it’ when someone else declares you’ve got it baby. But it’s such crap.
If you didn’t already have it, you wouldn’t connect with it.
‘It’ is nothing more than our shared humanity. It is the truth of the human soul. That’s what we connect with. We are all human, and what makes us different is what makes us the same. You only discover it when you work towards your genuine self. And that will take you away from what you once thought was important, and it will expose you to new experiences, things that you did not think you wanted, or things that you had been running from.
But we all have ‘it’. It’s only a question because if we continue to put all the emphasis outside ourselves, on something else, on talent, technique, or anything else equally as vague or useless, we can continue to deny the fact that it all comes down to you, and only you, and that you are all you need, and you had it within you all along, and if only I’d known.
But it’s hard to let go of our fears, and trust in the simple truth that because we are human, we can identify with humans, and they can identify with us.
Such a no-brainer, but so hard to believe.
When we go to audition, we have a way of hiding our failure, so we are not so personally hurt. Oh, they didn’t like my monologue, they didn’t like my take on Chekhov, or my intonation or somesuch. It’s not me that they didn’t like.
Somehow, when you realise that it is you, it slowly becomes more okay. When you aren’t hiding any more, there’s freedom there. But when you’ve barricaded yourself in behind the barriers we’re used to hiding behind, when you’re secretly seeking validation and approval because you don’t quite trust yourself, when you’re hiding from the fact that it’s your own uniqueness that sets you apart, it’s difficult. When you realise that it is your uniqueness that’s the real thing of value, you somehow hold it less tightly.
It’s okay if they don’t like you, because your sense of self worth comes from you, not them. You start to genuinely feel that it’s their loss, not yours. Their not choosing you, it does not reflect on you, it only reflects on them – and not even in a negative way. It only reveals that they were looking for something specific, and you’re something specific, and maybe next time you’ll match up. Or you won’t. Who knows?
But it is you. It’s always you. They didn’t choose you. And we seek ways to protect ourselves when we’re hurt, without realising that it’s actually a sign of our uniqueness that we were not chosen. Our truth was not the truth they were looking for, because people don’t actively seek out the truth, they seek out safety. We all do.
So we protect ourselves with our techniques and our attributes, so we don’t have to face the truth that they didn’t want us for that *insert coveted thing here*. Fucking own it. It is precisely because you are special and unique and amazing in all your glory that they do not want you. It is because you are brilliant that you do not fit in, that you cannot be everything to everybody. It is not your technique, it is your character. And it’s not because you aren’t good enough, it’s because you are. That’s the hideous truth they don’t tell you. It all comes down to you. There is no amount of technique you can master or planning you can do that will make up for the fact that you have to be true and genuine if you are to have any chance of success. And it’s exactly your truth that will keep you from the roles you want. We seem to want to be anything other than ourselves. So we audition for roles that might be fun, and adventurous, but simply aren’t us. And then we get offended when we don’t get something we weren’t going to be any good at to begin with, because – here’s the kicker – trying to become anything will only result in nothing.
We all have truth within us, but we cover it up with lies, because we don’t want to feel exposed. We want to feel confident, and comfortable, and the last place we want to feel exposed is when we’re on stage. So we protect ourselves in blankets of technique, talent, performance investigation, choreography, and methods upon methods, which only serve to help us feel more comfortable, more confident, and that only stifles creativity, spontaneity, and keeps us blinded to the truth. Life is uncomfortable. It’s okay that you don’t know what you’re doing, because nobody does.
If we didn’t already have ‘it’, we wouldn’t have friends, and we wouldn’t want friends. Well, sometimes I feel like I don’t want friends, but actually sometimes I just want to be alone, and that’s quite different. That’s enjoying my own truth, that is.
It’s the human heart, that’s all. We connect with each other’s hearts. That’s what we do.
But isn’t a good actor someone who can inhabit every character? Someone who can be versatile, skilled, amazing? No. It’s the job of the actor, the writer, everyone in the theatre to expose the truth of humanity. It’s not your job to exhibit technique. It’s not your job to judge, or be judged, or be safe and confident, and it’s not your job to wonder about whether or not you’ve got what it takes. It’s not your job to seek or work for accolades, it’s your job to expose the truth of humanity. Yes... simple...
It’s only your job to be true. And it’s only through being true and genuine that you have any chance of success, because all other roads lead nowhere. They lead to unremarkable performances and unremarkable plays that have been cobbled together by people who would have been better served by doing something else – something that was true and genuine to them.
We are told that because we’re special and unique, we can be anything, but that’s not the truth. The truth is the exact opposite – it’s because we’re unique that we cannot simply be anything, but what we unequivocally can be is genuine, which is so much more worthwhile and rewarding.
Because if you’re doing this (acting, or – y’know – life) for accolades or recognition, get ready for disappointment.
But when you realise you’re not suited to something it isn’t a failure, it’s a success – when you realise that, you’re free.
The irony lies, of course, in the truth of our shared humanity. Because when you touch on something deeply, eternally true, something that genuinely strikes to the heart of humanity, everyone connects. Everyone identifies. But it’s not because you have a broad appeal; it’s not because you’re changeable, adaptable, it’s precisely because you’re not. It’s because you are unique, like it or not. It’s because you stand alone, and that speaks to the truth that we all feel – that we are one, unique individual who somehow does not fit in with the masses. Who – despite all generosities – somehow is not satisfied. When you cease to fit in with the masses, that’s when we connect. Because we don’t fit in either, and the more we pander to other people’s expectations, the more we try to become what we think other people want us to be, the more we disconnect from ourselves – this serves nobody, and harms all.
The elusive ‘it’ is our birth-right, it can only be taken away from us when we become disconnected from ourselves; when we pander to convention or ill-conceived demands and cease to trust our human nature that is at once both unique and universal. That ‘it’ was ours to begin with, so how can we believe that we don’t have it?
What are the themes that are worth writing about? Loneliness, love, loss, creation and decay, salvation, redemption, freedom, injustice and equality, strength and sacrifice – even stories about how nothing meaningful ever happens are actually about struggle. Which of these lack universal appeal? That’s what it means to ‘write about what you know’ – it’s not literal. It’s not ‘write about your friend Geoff’.
To entrust our success to the judgement of others, this achieves nothing but mediocrity. When we try to fit in, we deny the truth. When we try to be everything, we deny our own uniqueness, the very thing that makes us eternal.
When you try to be everything, your only chance is to be nothing.
When you aspire to be the true and eternal you, free from prejudice and expectation, only then will you discover the truth of humanity, and good God, I can sound sanctimonious sometimes. Ah, well.
Be completely, unashamedly and unapologetically you. Which is what I am vaguely yet insecurely trying to achieve right now. If nothing else, if only this, be true.
You get what I’m getting at. No apologies, Chris.
When it comes back to fitness, training and nutrition – only you know. Do what’s right for you. Only you know what you want to work towards, and where your truth is to be found. That’s the path of enthusiasm. You’ll probably require some guidance, some help, but that – like everything else – is okay.
Over and out.
11/3/2011 07:53:10 pm
11/3/2011 08:33:57 pm
11/3/2011 09:04:43 pm
oh chris, what are you, some kind of WIZARD or something? this was exactly what i needed today, thank you for sharing this, so beautifully articulated.
11/3/2011 09:11:16 pm
Oh, I love it. And especially the following line: "That’s what it means to ‘write about what you know’ – it’s not literal. It’s not ‘write about your friend Geoff’." I'm going to quote that forever now!
11/3/2011 09:11:41 pm
Thank you, Katie.
11/3/2011 09:13:29 pm
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