Lately I’ve been watching TED talks by Brene Brown. She really nails it about the courage to enter the arena…and to, as she says, dare greatly. Knowing you may fail. Knowing you will be emotionally exposed. Knowing you are vulnerable.
Marci Phillips of ABC gives workshops and always talks about her love for actors and the need for something in our lives to sustain us through the ups and downs, the inevitable rejections. As an old coach of mine once said to me, “Some people just won’t get you. And some…definitely will.”
The joy of acting is how alive we feel when we tiptoe, walk or leap to our own edge, when we try something new, when we allow ourselves to be seen. There is no escaping the need for this…the most successful actors in the business constantly seek to find another role that scares them, that pushes them. This is not a field in which you can coast and do good work.
What I love about the Brene Brown talks is the focus on values. Because just like choosing an aesthetic that inspires your particular talent–I loved Meisner immediately for the sharing and connectedness that is its focus–you have to be inspired to keep acting. You have to believe in it. I always say that actors live in the choice between the gods of ego and the gods of humanity. Ego is the cotton candy of life…feels good when you first taste it, but holds no nourishment. Ego is about name-dropping, and aggrandizement. Humanity is about telling good stories with good people and being present for it.
My own particular temptation with ego is getting laughs. I can be all present and focused on generosity with my scene partners, but if I start getting laughs for a certain acting choice, I have a compulsion to play to that, because it’s such a high. Of course, they laugh harder and more often if I’m just living the insanity of the character–and, no lie, I get insanity on a lot of levels.
I am inspired by the challenge–stay vulnerable, stay open, stay willing to be exposed, willing to fail, stay at the edge, risking, knowing that I’m going to blow it some of the time, or they won’t like me when I do my best work, or maybe they think I’m too old, or not old enough.
I am inspired by the stories I want to tell, by my love for those stories, by getting to tell them with people who are talented and smart and inspired themselves.
Knowing what I’m in this to do grounds me in who I am. You can’t lose that. Or whose sense of meaning will you bring to the craft?
Be you. Stay vulnerable. Be inspired. And hell, be scared. This is how you know you’re alive. It’s how you know you’re really acting.