Theatre has given me an extended family

Family, in traditional terms, are people that were given to us, that we did not choose.

Friends are a family we choose for ourselves based in love, respect, and mutual interests.

Theatre people are those who start out as working colleagues, people brought together for a temporary time to work, laugh, cry and expose our inner selves in sometimes very vulnerable ways, to whom afterward we might choose to stay connected.  Or perhaps we don’t see them for years.  But when we do, often it’s like no time has passed at all.

The intimacy of working so closely and so emotionally with your fellow actors, technicians, designers, director… It often connects us, like members of a tribe, with an unspoken commitment of support and care, of encouragement and acknowledgement, of remembrance of the landmarks of our lives.  It’s a powerful thread between us, even over great time and distance.

This is the family I’ve expanded and welcomed over the 30-ish years of doing theatre.  Together we’ve celebrated birth and life and cried over death.  We’ve uplifted each other, shared opportunities and successes, and toasted the failures and losses.  I feel so thankful for this huge family I now have, and I wish others who don’t experience it could understand how wonderful it can be.

I never had a big family, myself.  No siblings.  I was not very close to my extended family members.  Over the years I’ve lost my grandparents.  My father was distant for most of my life, and recently I lost my mother.  This makes me all the more grateful for this tribe of passionate artists and friends.  It’s not the things we acquire that define us.  It’s the people we connect and share with that carve the notches on the timeline of our lives.  The sharing of our joys, our sorrows, and the collective memories of all those moments past that we carry with us on our journey.  Thank you to all my theatre friends who have shared these moments with me.

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts People

 

Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com

 

 

An Actors Dilemma: Vulnerability versus Confidence

Being an actor can be tough.  The audition process often makes you feel like an object, being judged on your appearance, your voice, your talent, your experience… There’s so much rejection.  It can all lead to a great deal of insecurity and fear.  All this on top of the fact that most actors are already fragile.  Their emotions are more near to the surface than most people, which is a benefit when they need to access them for an emotional role, but a detriment in how it can play into the fears generated above.

So an actor needs confidence to be able to overcome these negative feelings, and be able to do their job.  Often actors are called upon in a role to do things, wear things, behave in certain ways that are humorous for the show or film, but might capitalize on the actors own imperfections, such as accentuating and building humor on a large actor being “fat” and therefore ridiculous.  Also, in rehearsal, an actor must be available to try things that might fail, that might potentially embarrass them.  They need to be bold in trying out different unique approaches to playing their character or in building a scene.  Without confidence it makes it much harder for the director to bring them out of their shell, to get them to go far enough with a humorous bit, or in projecting a specifically strong emotion.  Directors love actors who make bold choices, who try things easily, who follow their direction without being timid or inhibited or withdrawn.  But many actors struggle with this based on their fragile nature and often the rejection and confidence crushing experiences they’ve been in before.

While confidence is so important, at the same time an actor must be vulnerable. They must tap into emotions easily.  They must be able to identify with the characters they are playing, relate it to their own lives and experiences, in order to give an emotionally rich performance, or a funny portrayal of a flawed character, or act in ridiculous ways for an over the top comedy.  Their vulnerability though can be directly at odds with their confidence.

This is an actors dilemma.

Where does the balance between confidence and vulnerability come from?  Is it something they must be born with, or can it be learned?  Should actors just budget for therapy, because they know they’re gonna need it?  There’s really no single answer or method to accomplish this.  For those who are less confident, it may be that they need to work with a coach who can help them to make bold choices and learn how beneficial they are.  It may take working in productions and pushing themselves to go out on the limb.  Fake it ’till you make it might apply here.  Fake the confidence until you really feel it.

What happens if they have too much confidence and not enough vulnerability?  Or is this just a cover for their insecurities?  It often equates to an actor who is difficult to direct, thinking he/she knows better than the director, who bosses the other actors around.  What happens if they have too much vulnerability?  Typically this can mean an actor who has tons of potential, but who is afraid to let go and tap into their abilities to a bold degree.

While the dilemma goes on without any simple solutions, the balance between the two is very important toward being a successful actor.  Experience and training and hard work are in order to bring out the positive qualities of both.


Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts People

 

Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com