Monday, April 5, 2010

Give Me Three

Try to be better than yourself.

William Faulkner
The Easter Bunny hopped in here and helped me fill out my tax form. Shall I send him over there?
Ahhh!! Self satisfaction. The great temptation. One of the Seven Deadly Sins. Do we file it under Sloth or Pride? Or both. I'm not sure.

The wheel is a great tool and very popular, it always sells. So I'll just go on reinventing it for the rest of my life and everything will be fine.

One of the rules I lived by as a performer was "It can always be better." Some actors I knew hardly ever opened their scripts after opening night. I guess they thought the work was done and there was nothing left but to repeat themselves night after night. I admit to having the same attitude the first few years of my career. But early on, through observing the work of older actors, I realized that the work never stops even up to the last performance. There was no noticeable alteration in how they performed their roles. It was the same dive into the drama and ideas of the play and the characters, but the dive kept getting deeper. It was necessary to respond to that increased artistry, so I had to do my own diving.

I found the rule "It can always be better" very helpful in recording studios. I had worked for many recording directors, Some were very good and some were awful, particularly one blue ribbon bitch in the studios of Mutual Of New York who had no idea what she was doing and so had to bully everyone to cover up and compensate.

One director I worked for many times had a special and very effective way of working. After I finished the recording he would say "Give me three more just like that." He might make a few adjustments and then ask for three more, and then, maybe, three more after that. He was getting as much work out of me as he could so he could take it all into a studio and do the editing to come up with the best possible version of the piece. I appreciated that. After all it was my voice, my work that was going to be heard and wanted it to be the best. Not only that but, unlike some self satisfied directors, he would ask me what I thought. If I said "Well, it can always be better" he would say "Okay, let's do three more." I would go anywhere at any time of day or night to work for a director like that.

I say don't sell yourself short. You may find a formula that works and have success with it. But will there come a time when you will realize you sacrificed the person you might have been for the easy road through life?

The great conductor Leopold Stokowski used to end his orchestra rehearsals by saying "Tomorrow we do it better."

Acting on the stage or in front of a camera, playing music or baseball, taking photographs, building a garage or cooking a pot roast, it can be done better than it was yesterday The effort is what's needed and the knowledge that it can always, ALWAYS be better.

DB - The Vagabond
pacifica62 I still don't know who you are or where you are but I sure appreciate your excellent comments. Thank you.

(This is not a contest.)

In your opinion what is the most amazing thing that could happen during this decade? Make it as outrageous as you want but keep it within the realm of what you consider a possibility.

Only 3 responses so far.

Answers will be published the first day of Summer.

DB - The Vagabond


pacifica62 said...

"The easy road through life". I am sure I have taken that route a time or two and not become the person I might have been. The dilemma comes when I try to draw the line between "it can always be done better" and "it is never good enough". If taken lightly and positively, the former can motivate me to set a higher standard for myself. The latter, however can be reminiscent of troubled times in growing up and feeling I had failed many people in my life and the expectations that they had of me. There are many moments when I know I could do better. There are also times when I have to let myself believe that what I have done is "good enough" and leave it at that.

DB said...

Thank you pacifica. "It's never good enough" is not even the reverse side of the coin, it's a negative, looking up from below.
"It's good enough." It may even be better than "good enough." In either case "It can always be better."


Silver said...

I was lingering for a longer while today.. i am sorry for what you are going through.

Hope you are feeling much better today. We must continue to strive to be better than true!


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Seeking to always do better is a worthy endeavor.

Gerry said...

I can relate to this aphorism as one of my biggest peeves was directors who did not schedule enough rehearsals and the worst, those who talked when they did have one instead of getting down to business! I did three shows with a director once and the last time she practically talked non stop through the rehearsals I said no more! She did not even rehearse her own numbers! But this is at an older age and the tendency is to do it slapdash worse than ever. Now my creative partner has not my respect because he is an alcoholic who only becomes irritable when asked to rehearse. I said no one will ever take you serious. He said, so what, I am 72 years old blah blah. Raymond did not even rehearse enough to suit me way back then, but thank goodness when I write I can revise and tinker as long as I want to, so that is the work I stand by. Why I don't try to do theater here in the WHo to be taken seriously.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Any of us in life no matter our profession can always do better. I think striving to do better keeps us going. If we say we just stay as we are we never would learn anything new or change. I learn something new every day and I'm sure a lot of it helps me to be a better person.

Nance said...

With pacifica62, I look for a balance between "do better" and "enough." Some of us seem wired to push ourselves relentlessly; that kind of indulgence is not more productive than its opposite and, either way, there's a cost sooner or later. As I age, I still strive for the Middle Way, knowing that what may eventually ride on my effort is life, itself. There's one exception: I can always, always do better at kindness.