Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Older Ox

Either run with the big dogs or stay on the porch.

Big Mark
Hello Val
There's a tradition among farmers that calls for yoking a young inexperienced ox with an older ox so that the young one will quickly learn the routine of plowing. They don't send the young ox to college. They just tether him to the older ox and that's that. The young one learns fast.

When I was studying drawing at the Art Student's League I always tried to sit next to someone who was better at it, to learn from them by observing.

There are real problems connected to learning a new task, a new job or a new career. Most people don't do it right.

Here's an example. I was hired at a radio station and my first day of work the boss put me on the air at the busiest time, the morning drive time, before I knew which switches did what or what problems I was going to face with news and weather reports and phone calls. The boss thought it would be good to put me there so I would get the full effect of the job. He was wrong. It was a nightmare. But by noon I was a big dog. I had to be. At a different station I broke in on the all night shift which was much simpler and enabled me to learn all I needed to know to handle any on air shift at that station.

Approaching this topic from a much different angle there are those who come into a job situation thinking they know how it's done when in fact they don't. I'm sure that happens in many enterprises but I have found it to be quite prevalent in the theatre business, the one I have spent my life in.

No doubt the glamorous nature of what actors do attracts many people to the trade but why should anyone decide to be an actor without knowing what it entails or, worse, assuming they know. I've seen too many youngsters and others jump in with the big dogs when they should have stayed on the porch.

I partly fault the kind of education some people get. Acting is an art, but it is also a trade, a craft, and like any craft it has it's rules and it's techniques. I have worked with too many recent graduates of important Drama Departments and Academies of Art who were not taught those techniques. I don't know what they were taught or who taught them and I don't want to know. Those new to the trade didn't know they needed to stay on the porch and watch the big dogs run.

There is a highly regarded drama department at a well known college in the
East. I have yet to work with a recent graduate of the school who really knows acting. After many years away from that school I had to give one graduate a lesson in voice placement. I wondered how he could be a drama major with a BFA in Acting and never have been taught that.

It's worse when they are arrogant. They know what their teachers told them or didn't tell them and they believe it's the way without discussion. I had to give one young fellow a lesson in how to be a stage manager. He laughed at the rules until the other members of the cast threatened him. He got back upon the porch.

I have experienced this type of faulty training first hand. I was asked to perform a scene for a directing class at a very important film school in the Northeast Not only did that teacher ignore talking about the directing, he tried to correct the acting. He didn't know what he was talking about because he didn't know what acting is. I felt sorry for the students. If you're a college professor of something you don't do yourself, don't take an actor with 25 years experience in stage, film and TV and give him acting lessons. Stay on the porch.

I write about theatre and acting because that's what I know. But I'm sure the same circumstances apply to any important endeavor. Don't assume you know what you do not know. Watch out for people who think they know but don't. And always find an older more experienced ox to hook up next to if you can. Otherwise stay on the porch.

Dana Bate - The 1.840th edition of Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up

1 comment:

mrs.missalaineus said...

i think this is why i write about teaching so much- it's what i know, and precisely why politicians need to listen to teachers more. when they make these stupid laws about kids, they are doing it from the 'porch'.