Our Acting Studio in Los Angeles is an artistic home for a diverse group of actors. Los Angeles is an international city in a progressive state that tends to vote for equality and inclusion and the actors at our Studio reflect that. They are men and women, white, African, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, LGBTQ+, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist Americans, immigrants from many countries, etc. It’s a wide spectrum in many ways except when it comes to politics. We lean left.
And right now, days after the election, we’re scared. We see it in the eyes of the hundreds of actors and employees who come through our Studio every day. We’re scared that the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect have said and done things, and will say and do things that might harm us and the people we love. We wonder if our bodies will be our own domain, if our family will be sent away from us, back to a country they don’t know, if our loved ones will be prevented from coming to this country even to visit, if our right to marry, adopt, and be ourselves will be taken from us, if if our air, water, and earth will be treated as sacred.
And we’re sad. We’re sad because the result of the election feels like an invalidation of our core values, our fundamental belief in empathy, inclusion, and equality. Many of us believed that a remarkably qualified woman elected president would help cement those beliefs in the foundation of the country, make them real. We believed that a person who doesn’t respect those core values can’t win.
And we’re angry. We’re angry that our fellow Americans made a decision that we believe puts us and people we love in danger, that a person we believe to be the bully won, that the majority of Americans voted for one candidate but that the Electoral College doesn’t honor that majority.
So here we are. Scared, sad, and angry. And with those feelings the tendency can be to harden our hearts, disengage, declare that we’re moving to Canada, or angrily post on social media about how hideous Trump is and how dumb his supporters are. “Fuck the world!”
But of course, actors know better and right now the country deserves better. Actors know that they must do the work of being fully present with their feelings. They must honor their emotional truth, facing it head on. Be scared, be sad, and be angry.
But you can’t stop there. That’s only the beginning.
Actors know that the presence of suffering in themselves is also a reminder of the universal suffering, that we all have fear, sadness, and anger. In fact, it is what connects us. They know know that while these feelings may spark an impulse to wall up and be at odds with those who voted differently, they must seek out the common humanity and push for common understanding. That doesn’t mean that we ignore our core values, let ourselves be violated, or accept a policy that we fundamentally disagree with. We must organize, stay aware, be an ally for the most vulnerable, donate our time and money to causes we believe in, create art that affects people, get political, vote, vote, vote, etc, etc. But we must start with humanity, even if the same is not afforded us.
Those who supported President-Elect Trump have fear, sadness, and anger, too. They had lost faith in a political system that didn’t see to their needs. They didn’t have trust for Hillary Clinton. Forces both foreign and domestic made them feel unsafe. They recalled a time when they did feel safe and they wanted that back. Some wanted that back so badly that they were willing to ignore racism, misogyny, etc, and vote for Donald Trump; flaws they were aware of but, not feeling their direct affects personally, didn’t tip the scale of their needs. You can argue that the America they want to return to- like the factory jobs they used to have- will never come back, that the racial makeup of the country has changed for good and they need to deal, that Trump voters are blinded by their white privilege and have inherent biases against women, etc, etc. But you can’t argue their feelings. They feel this way. They have suffering. And in order to live in a country that upholds our core values- empathy, inclusiveness and equality- we’ll have to address their suffering, too. It may not be convenient, it may trigger our egos, it may be too much to ask particularly of those whose gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc, have made disenfranchisement the norm and a Trump win just another Tuesday in America. But before we move to action we must acknowledge that our humanity connects us. If we continue to ignore our common humanity, each election cycle will reveal an angry demographic that snatches back the political pendulum in their favor to the exclusion of another demographic that will do the same when their anger boils over.
And in this realm, actors are leaders.
You are empathy warriors, on the front lines preaching your message that each human being is unique to the universe and that the expression of everything that is unique about them connects us all to the universal humanity. Every time you work- in class, on set, on stage, in the audition room- you strive to speak your truth in order to connect to a universal truth. You have to hear that ardent Trump supporter. You have to see that their suffering is your suffering. There’s no way out of this if we don’t treat each other with humanity. And the only way to do that is to see it, make people aware of it. And that is the responsibility of an actor. Yeah, you want to book that CW pilot. We want that for you, too. But if you want to call yourself an actor you have a duty to show the world its own humanity. So, go on and speak truth to power. Go on and make art about women’s experience in America, or the immigrant experience in America or the LGBTQ+ experience in America or the Muslim experience in America. Go on and compare a Trump voters fear to the fear of African Americans who have fought through crushing oppression for centuries. And go on and support, work and advocate for politicians and organizations that protect your core values. But either way your job is to show us our humanity. You must write it, act it, shoot it, post it, screen it. Now is the time to make art that is active, that grabs us by our humanity and doesn’t let go until we see it.
Now is the time to suit up and show up. Now is the time to lean harder into your own vulnerability in order to show the world theirs. Now is the time to care more, express more, lift those compassion weights to expand your understanding. Now is the time to act. There is a need right now and you have what it takes to fill that need.
There is an urgency. Get to work.