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Transform(v): to change completely

September 13, 2010

In just three weeks, the transformation from hobby to lifestyle has taken a pretty significant shape.

I don’t mean to say that I ever considered acting a hobby. I didn’t. I realized in class the other day that in the last 8 years, I haven’t ever gone two months without being cast in a show. I did 13 full lengths productions in three years in Baltimore. I had even more in undergrad.

But, with the creation of Single Carrot Theatre came the necessity of holding a day job, and when you give 40 of your best hours in the week to a different life, it’s hard (if not impossible) to consider your night job your exclusive career. An epiphany crossed my mind as I forged through a busy weekend. We aren’t so much learning how to act as we are learning how to work like professionals.  Yes, there is an almost overwhelming amount of information being heaved at us, but what is written very delicately between the lines is the phrase “This is how much work it takes to be an actor.”

Gone are the days of 3-4 hours of ‘work on the side.’Let’s take this weekend, for example.

Classes are 9-5 during the week, but with our release into a few days of freedom came some caveats:

Work your “5 floodgates” for voice every day (a series of exercises for your body)
Do ten minutes of destrcturing work every day for voice (more exercises)
Do your “scales” for every day for acting (the actor’s equivalent of a musician’s scales; a simple, effective daily routine to expand the imagination and inner world)
Choreograph a cane and ball duet with a partner for movement, throwing and catching the objects in rhythm to attain some kind of pretty result.
Learn a brand new one-minute monologue for movement monologues.
Complete your daily rib expansion exercises and any other assigned movement work.
Write a deceivingly complex paper on Oedipus Rex, usually falling in the 10-20 page range.
Read a chapter of Michael Chekhov’s To The Actor.
Read a portion of Stanislavsky’s My Life in Art.
Come up with a detailed plot analysis/flow chart for A Flea in Her Ear.

And of course, breathe, sleep and eat. And come meet one of our student sponsor (donors) at his extremely graciously hosted party, too. Be sure you look refreshed.

And so, we’ve officially lost the term (the idea even)” hobby” when used in association of a description of our lives as artists.

“Don’t practice being yourself,” insisted our acting professor, “practice creative transformation. What you try to do will never happen.”

Try to nail a performance. Try to perfect a beat. Heck, even try to communicate or listen.  (“Many actors listening on stage are really just staring,” we’ve been reminded).
You probably won’t succeed like you hope.

But when you access a point of neutrality, eliminate expectations and transform, you have no choice but to succeed. The moment you experience even one second of a creative, imagined reality, you’ve succeeded. Soon that one second will turn into 5, which will turn into 10, and then a minute, and eventually a three-hour performance.

Perhaps, as I live this transformation now, I’ve finally understood why it is that I’ve always absolutely despised when people use the phrase “I’m trying to make it as an actor.” How many of these people do you know have actually made it being an actor? Probably none. They were all too busy trying so damn hard, when they hadn’t the faintest clue how to be.

Is it agreeable then, that we demand artists to be artists, from sun up to sun down? We say nothing less for CEOs or Doctors. Don’t scoff. Artists in today’s world have come so far that a casual interest (or worse, a greed-fueled lust) in acting won’t cut it. Not as a professional. No one is brilliant on accident. If we’re to be relevant, we must acknowledge all of the work done by the true greats of our time and past, and demand our worth with exceptional creativity. This is what we expect of athletes, do we not? The Olympics are held every four years, where the best of the best compete for supremacy. The best of the best entertainers compete daily, sometimes hourly for the chance to shine. Try to beat Usain Bolt at a 100m dash when all you do is 3-4 hours of committing to being a runner per day. Wouldn’t work? Then don’t expect your art to be any better than your running.

I’ll embrace the cliche: To truly transform on stage, the transformation takes place in life.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010 10:19 pm

    “Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know,
    but not a single human being can be taught to be.

    Because whenever you think or believe or you know,
    …you are a lot of other people:
    but the moment you are being, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

    To be nobody-but-yourself,
    in a world which is doing its best night and day
    to make you everybody else,
    means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.
    and never stop fighting . . .

    Does this sound dismal?

    It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful Life on earth.”

    — E.E. Cummings

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