Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Right Answers

Sometimes creativity is a compulsion not an ambition.

Ed Norton
Hello Mark
One day I had lunch with a young actor who wanted to pick my brains about acting. We went to a restaurant where he bought me a pizza. It was a good pizza. I told him I would ask him one question and that if I didn't get the right answer I was going to talk him out of it.

The question was "Why are you an actor?"

The answer was "Because I love entertaining people."

That was a good answer so I talked for the next hour or so about acting: the job, the career, the techniques, the artistry. While I was speaking and answering his questions I realized something I didn't usually think about which was how much I loved acting, the theatre, the opportunity and process of entertaining people.

In my late teens I had several opportunities open to me and a few skills in other trades. But when I realized that I was an actor I put all my other talents in the shed and never looked back.

I've had occasions to encourage other younger actors as time went by. I remember talking with one who said he loved performing and rehearsing but he hated auditions. I turned his head around about that when I told him an audition was a chance to put on a show and entertain people.

I have known artists, painters and writers who lost sleep and did not realize it because they had to finish what they were working on. I have known ballet and modern dancers for whom discipline was such a constant way of life that they exhibited more of it than any one else. And I've known actors who were more alive on the stage than any place else. I finally realized one day that I was totally at home on the stage, that I was more comfortable, confident and capable of life the moment I stepped out on to a stage. I loved it.

Learning lines is one of the tasks of an actor. It's tedious, hard work, but the more you do it the easier it gets. I got some excellent advice from Helen Hayes who said that she memorized something every day even when she didn't have a play to work on, just to keep her memory skills in shape.

For an artist there are simple terms to describe cosmic things. Some call it the Muse, to others it's a compulsion, or a desperation or the thrill of living and expressing life. Everything you write, a novel, a history, a short story, a poem, a journal entry, becomes a part of the unbelievably limitless world of the written word. It's the same with a painting, No matter where it's hung or not hung it is part of the genius of visual art.

From the grandeur of ancient Greek and Roman theatre, through the rag tag Commedia players moving around through the Middle Ages, to the authority of European theatre, to Broadway, Hollywood, TV drama and an occasional work of quality on You Tube, actors have been entertaining people with the portrayal of real life and the glamorization of ideas for centuries.

Is there any bad art? Of course. But the people who produce it should have been asked the question I asked the young actor years ago. And if the questioner didn't get the right answer he should have talked them out of it.

Great works of art have been made, are being made right this instant and will continue to be made by artists, just as long as they are compelled by love and the right answers.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up


What event over the past year changed your life, a lot or a little?

3 answers so far.

I await your answers.


Big Mark 243 said...

Interesting... I have given the subject of 'why' a great deal of thought lately... and it is good to see a different perspective on the subject.

Arlene (AJ) said...

Another great read that makes one stop and think as usual. Bless you for always have thought thinking words to share with all of us, you're one special guy to know. Lucky us who read your blog site.

pacifica62 said...

I am not now, nor have I ever been an actor or an artist, however I think many of these same thoughts can pertain to so many other careers and "callings" as well. To be called to the bar, to the priesthood, to teaching, to nursing and medical work all of these fields require a great deal of thought and introspection. Each requires personal sacrifice and an honest appraisal of oneself to be sure that this is indeed what you should be doing with your life. Not all of our appraisals will be thorough and correct, but if they are, then the results are quite visible.