Acting is the act of doing something. It is also a state of being or a state of mind. Acting affects other people and their circumstances or is affected by circumstances or someone else’s actions. The art of acting comes from within the artist. It is truly a gift and can be honed and developed as any other art form.
For many artists and other working professionals, their job defines them. The first thing we want to know when we meet someone new is what they do for a living.
We ask, “What do you do?”
And the reply is usually, “I’m a such and such.”
Or, perhaps, “I work at ____, but I’m actually interested in ___.”
You fill in the blank.
Going from acting class to acting class, from audition to audition, from booking a gig to not knowing where your next gig is coming from, can wear on an actor’s psyche and emotional well-being.
And what is an actor if they’re not acting?
Upon telling them that I am an actor, here’s a favorite line someone once asked me, “Oh, what would I know you from?”
Ouch. So, you’re telling me you’d have to have seen me in something to be a veritable actor? (Cue cheeks flushing in total embarrassment.)
Actors should act. Singers should sing. Painters should paint. It’s just that our culture doesn’t favor full-time work for artists. We usually have to book our own work, and there can be slumps along the way.
The myth here is that your next gig defines you. It could be a national Hallmark commercial or a local law firm ad. It could be a major motion picture, or it could be the next indie horror film. It could also be one of those seasons where absolutely nothing has panned out.
In the German film, The Lives of Others, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (say that 10 times), various artists find themselves blacklisted by the German Stasi for their art and personal statements that conflict with the governing rule. They live in East Germany, where the Berlin Wall still stands during the 1980s.
Having crossed the so-called “line,” they can no longer create works that others will see and value. They are being punished by not being able to get work in their field.
In turn, they have lost their own value.
They have lost their meaning, purpose, and will to live.
Suicides are on the rise. So much so that the numbers are not even being reported.
I think this is one of the most incredible films of our time. I’ve seen it over and over again, and it always makes me stop and think, “What if I couldn’t ever act again? What would I do?”
Looking back on my life, I have not only been an actor on stage or in front of the camera, but I’ve also been an actor at home with my children, in front of my bunny rabbit, out laughing with friends.
I am an actor, but acting doesn’t define me. It flows in and out of me in every situation. I find myself improvising daily. I find myself listening to others and feeling compassion for them (and sometimes frustration). I make up songs or stories to play with my family.
Discouragement is so prevalent as an artist, and being a servant to someone else’s project might just be the fuel we need to live and breathe and have our being. If I don’t book my next audition, I could help someone else book theirs. My gift belongs to me to steward and doesn’t take charge of my life. I do.
Sometimes, lulls in our careers are tests for the long haul ahead. May they make us stronger and more complex artists who end up having a voice for many generations. And may our identity and uniqueness as individuals be displayed in how we interact in the lives of others.