The Dinner Party
Alright! Let’s get back to business oh blog’o mine. Grab some crackers, lotta thoughts about to come atcha::
This past week I was part of a scene study class (yes I know, lots of class stories on the ol’blog). We were given scenes on a Tuesday, then cast out into the dark (yet frighteningly warm) October evening with instructions on how to prepare them over the course of a week and told to trudge back (mmm, more stroll, the weather is GREAT right now) on the following Tuesday to present our work.
In class there is a popular story told by my teacher about being a guest at a dinner party (no I haven’t just been hit on the head or converted this to a foodie blog, this will all connect).
When you, the actor, meet the doctors and lawyers and other ‘professionals’ at said party (because you know, dinner parties between doctors/lawyers and actors is very much the norm) you have immediate respect for the amount of schooling and daily preparation it takes for them to do what they do well. You would never dare have the presumption to tell them how to go about doing their job. However when you tell the table ‘I am an actor’ more often than not your fellow guests will have more than one opinion on how you should go about doing yours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not their fault. They feel they can hold this opinion because all people see of an actor’s work is the final product. And the final product looks startling close to real life. So to the outside world it does just look like ‘talent’ or ‘luck’ that allows an actor to be ‘good’ or ‘successful’. BUT it takes hours and hours of work. It takes preparation. (Love that story, I’m missing many points to it, but I think you get the gist. Thanks Matthew!)
*Warning: Self-satisfying moment alert. If you don’t want an overly self reflective moment about moi as part of your life, just skip down below the asterisk (no judgment. But know there may be a quiz on this later).
Back to the class: In that class I did some of my best work. Yes the presentation itself was great but I’m actually talking about the other 99% of being an actor: the preparation it took to get there. I did some of my best preparation. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard at this, I put in the hours, but something about that week was special (did I just write special? Super gross! But it’s true). My partner and I used all 7 days, when we thought we had every moment of the scene figured out we went back again and again to test our theories. We did research, exercises, line runs and a million other things to uncover every miniscule moment of what was going on and who the characters were inside of it.
And the best part was I was never focused on the end result. It truly became about the journey of discovering every part of the scene, not how ‘good’ my final piece would be. (We’re into some serious ‘real talk’ people).
Let me preface the next part by saying our scene was not some walk in the park. In the span of 10 minutes I had to confess I had uteran cancer, have a full mental breakdown that included all out wailing crying in a chair, kiss my best friend and then snap out of it all and leave the room. Lets see our dinner party doctor do that?! (okay I guess they get off the hook for, you know, saving lives…).
When I got to the presentation I felt so prepared I was able to let my whole week of work go and just live in the moment. Fully. I did not check out or cheap out on anything because I could trust that all that work I did would be there without trying to make anything happen.
The point of this winding theory of thought being: What we do takes a lot of work: discipline, focus, curiosity… and a million other profound sounding words I can’t think of right now. It’s not luck. It’s commitment, hard work and determination. We are skilled professionals like any other and command as much respect at that dinner table as anyone else.
NOW, the following quote was read aloud at the end class on our final Tuesday. It may seem like it doesn’t quite reflect the theme of the mountainous blog post I just wrote, but to me, ‘daring greatly’ is daring to put your whole self into your work and truly treat it like a professional.
Take a read, and even if you’ve read it before as I’m sure many of you have, read for the reminder (and please. Everyone. It was written a long time ago, get off of your politically correct horse and try to ignore the sexist tone for a moment in favour of the overall message. Maybe try imagining ‘the person in the arena’ instead of man):
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Man, Theo can crack out a speech can’t he?!
That’s all I’s gots for yous. Clearly. Since I’m a thin white Canadian girl saying goodbye like Al Capone. No one needs that.
Time for bed.