Wednesday, April 5, 2017
On Acting: To my final class at University of Memphis, Theater Dept.
Acting offers you a place where you are accepted exactly as you are. Always. Acting offers you a home. Always. When you feel isolated, inadequate, afraid, yearning, needing…acting says read this play, step onto this stage, tell the story of being human
Acting encourages you, it supports you. Acting empowers you. It will take you when you are numb and it will thaw you out, pick you up and set you in the right direction. Both your strengths and your weaknesses are of use for acting and what you don’t know how to do…acting can teach you.
My teacher Uta Hagen entitled her first book, “Respect for Acting.” What this means to me is that acting is like the sea, always deeper than I knew, always fuller. So what can I bring to it? I found that passion and caring and honesty were great tools, that my mind, heart and soul were great tools. Even the moments in life when I was heavy with cynicism, ignorance, low self-esteem or apathy, acting stood before me like a friend and whispered, “Let’s play.”
No matter where your future is headed, training as an actor will offer you critical skills needed in any area of professional life. Acting is communication, it is finding your voice and using it, it is looking someone else in the eye and speaking directly to them with purpose, it’s facing and overcoming obstacles, it is standing up straight with a sense of value as you enter a room, it is understanding that any time you have to read or speak, the natural laws of acting will help you to break down your text and find your sense of purpose and meaning, find beats, find your moments. Acting teaches you to listen. As a teacher, I have worked with lawyers, authors, a federal judge on every aspect of his work in his courtroom, a non-actress Harvard grad in her TedTalks speech. I have friends who work with the executives of corporations by bringing the same laws of communication that great acting teachers bring to their classes. It can even teach us to have boundaries- as some characters do-and not give ourselves away, as some characters do. The possibilities are endless.
The teachers in this department are offering a great deal. I have seen so much while I have been here. I have seen some great work in here, and I most value the safety of this room- that it is a safe place for people to try, to fail and to try again. The willingness to fail is of the highest value. If we are too afraid to fail, we will not take risks. If we don’t take risks, our growth is abbreviated. The moment we fail is the moment of growth, we try again and we learn. Like a pianist, like a dancer, like a painter, like an athlete.
Find what inspires you. Over and over again. Never let another person tell you that you can’t. Never let a bad experience tell you that you can’t. Sometimes we dig deep, sometimes we move forward not knowing. Acting is more than any of our estimations of it. Make a proactive choice on where you choose to put your energy.No matter what is happening in the world, playwrights have written stories about it and as actors, we can bring these stories to life. We are actors, and we tell the stories of being human.
We are the storytellers.