“The only excuse for not coming to a class or a performance is death.” – Stella Adler
Class is hardly a luxury or an indulgence. It’s not for weak actors, or untalented ones. It’s certainly not only for actors who are untrained. Dancers, athletes, musicians, and yogis practice and work out on a daily basis. They couldn’t perform without it. How can you compete if your instrument’s out of tune?
Here are eight reasons why training as an actor is imperative.
1. You’re an athlete. Work out. Stay in shape. Exercise your actor muscles. Tune your instrument. Do the work every day in some way.
2. Challenge yourself. If you’re not challenged as an artist, you’re not engaged. Stir it up. Take risks. Experiment. Get in there. Get dirty. Get activated. Lose yourself in the work.
3. Find a community. A place where the work you care about is honored and you’re among like-minded artists. Create relationships with teachers and fellow actors. Find a theater company and do plays. Create your tribe. (And it’s not so bad for your social life either.)
4. Keep your mind, body, and soul activated. As an actor, you need to have your entire being stirred, have full access to your humanity, on all levels. You’ll be fully alive. As Elia Kazan said, “A great deal of patience is required, and a rigorous maintenance of your mind and your body.”
5. Have something to do. Put something specific, something good, on your schedule. Have a place to go. A purpose. Get out of the house, off the computer, the video game, the TV. Break the routine.
6. Combat the demons. Push yourself. Meet your fears and anxieties. All the energy you put into the negative talk can be used for good instead of evil. It will clear your head, fill your heart, and free up the energy you need.
7. Create access. If you’re in concert with other actors and teachers, you’ll open doors to connect with the industry. It may not seem obvious right away, but it will unquestionably be productive. Connect craft with your career. The constructive energy you put into fine-tuning yourself will attract the most amazing people to you.
8. Be a student. Observe life. Study human behavior, what motivates us, stirs us, and moves us. Exercise that. Work on your craft. Every day. Honor your artistry.
“When it comes to staying tuned: If you rest, you rust.” – Helen Hayes
Training can take many forms. Keep looking for the process that speaks to you. It’s out there. And please, make it about the work. Yes, there are great career seminars and webinars, casting director workshops, and showcases, but if you aren’t doing the core work on your craft, your headshot and career strategies aren’t going to matter. And please stay away from classes on “branding.” You are not cattle.
Do the work. Do it well. Be tuned and strong. Do everything you possibly can to be at the top of your game so you can compete when you get the chance. You’ll cut through your personal blocks, as well as the obstacles that face all of us these days. And I promise you this: If you’re working at your optimum potential as an actor in the right class, you’re going to attract work. Great work will be seen. The business will find you.
I’m deeply sensitive to an actor’s struggles, especially lately, as we have our own Studio. Steve and I get it. And we hear a lot of: “Wish I could do it but…” and “Congratulations, good luck, would love to do a class someday but…” And “Yeah, as soon as I can put the money together…” We, like other committed teachers and fellow artists, are here to provide an environment where you can nurture yourselves, elevate your work to your personal best, work out so that you sweat out the pain, get tuned-up, sharpen your edge, have a place to take risks, act daily, develop a practice, and find a community of fellow artists.
Give yourself that gift. Make that commitment to yourself. There’s so little you can control in this business. Developing your craft, harnessing your talent, activating your soul as an artist, these are things you can manage. So excuses be gone. Find a training ground for yourself today. It’ll feel amazing. And you’ll be equipped to bring your most unique, wonderful self into any room, onto any stage. How great is that?!
“There is magnificence in every artist. I believe this. I do not say this to flatter, and I do not say to this to many people, but when you find an artist – and there are many and of many degrees – you husband the artist and the talent within. You walk with them. You lead them to a place they can furnish with their gifts. A good teacher does not supply these gifts, but he can and should walk the artist toward the place where they are wanted, needed, and can be used. Fewer things are more gratifying than the deliverance of an artist to a consummation his gifts deserve.” -Elia Kazan (from the journals for “Follies of God” by James Grissom)
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