Friday, November 23, 2012

No Rules

You really need to be on the edge and you have to keep your eyes open.

Jam Master Jay


Hello Kate


I'm glad I never went to Drama School. I knew a few acting teachers I admired, but knew them only on a professional level. But I'm grateful I never enrolled in the curriculum of some college drama department. I have witnessed too many young people who come to New York City fresh out of some Academy of the Arts or University Theatre program believing, mistakenly, that they have received formal training as actors. They arrive with some teacher's theory or a rule book of practices and procedures which is incorrect, at best a waste of time and at worst destructive. If they aren't careful they will try to insist on a faulty method of work in the face of those who know better. Most of those unfortunate folks fade away and disappear. Or what's worse set themselves up in some other drama department and keep passing out the same, slightly modernized, nonsense.

Years ago I gave a lesson in voice placement to a man who had graduated from one of the most respected college theatre departments in the country. Voice placement is one of the fundamental tools of an actor's craft. I was alarmed at how this fellow could have graduated with a BFA as an acting major and never been taught it or even heard of it.

I learned acting by mixing my few drops of talent in a big bowl of experience and then baking it under the hot lights of a stage. And one major ingredient in that experience was working with other actors and directors who knew ore than I did, keeping my opinions humble, my questions pertinent and respectful and my eyes and ears open. Why did I then know more than the graduates? The answer can be found from one of the best directors I ever worked with who came into rehearsal the first day with a button that read "There are no rules."

Yes, I was living on the edge, sink or swim, learn or lose, do it or die. One of the most important things I observed was how easy it was for some people to get trapped in dogma. If life isn't a challenge eery day it is too easy to collapse into systems.

There are rules connected with theatre (although, again, some people get through college without learning them) just as there are rules involved with sports, science, technology, engineering and business. Knowing the rules is important. But there comes a point, usually earlier than people expect or believe, when the creative mind must be brought into play. And that frequently requires throwing out something you knew or thought you knew. Life doesn't really repeat itself. Every day is a new experience with a new challenge. It forces us to the edge whether we like it or not. But for the one who is willing to throw away the rule book and see life with new eyes it's reality that those buried in dogma will never know.

Dana Bate

Vagabond Journeys

Never Give Up


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