We, at the Susan Batson Studio, wish to pay tribute to the inspiring contribution the gifted actor Robin Williams made to the film industry. We also acknowledge that perhaps Williams’ death gives
us all much to examine.
In our process of acting we say that we have to create a walking talking human being who has among many things three primary elements: Need, Tragic Flaw, and Public Persona.
Robin Williams’ Public persona was that of an explosive wit which radiated genius. It was this Public Persona that we waited in gleeful anticipation to witness, and he never failed us. Very few of us thought to question what was under this Public Persona. Yes, we knew there were many other things to Robin Williams. He did prove it to us, as he exposed the dramatic actor to us, winning an Oscar. So we knew. And, beyond tabloid fodder, Robin Williams himself was very open about his Tragic Flaw of addiction. The only primary element of the character of Robin Williams that was not exposed was his Need.
The Need- the unfulfilled dynamic of our personality that drives us through life, which dictates our behavior- and is the very thing most of us hide from the world. To expose your need is to allow others to witness your vulnerability. So we all conveniently cover our Need with our Public Persona or we act out in the Tragic Flaw. Robin Williams’ Need was brilliantly hidden by his Public Persona and/or for years he struggled with addiction, acting out in the Tragic Flaw. What did Robin Williams need? Perhaps as we praised his genius we could have stopped to investigate the inner man, a man whose generosity is acknowledged on the same level as his genius.
For years we heard the axiom: “Never judge a book by its cover.” I’ll be damn if this is not the truth. What a far better world we would live in if we were brave enough to expose our needs, and share with tolerance the needs of others. It would be presumptuous to guess Robin Williams’ Need that developed by the time he was five years old. But, I will forever ponder what the Need hiding behind his fireworks Persona was? So, we also thank Robin Williams for his gift of making us conscious of the fact that there is more to a man than fame, and more for us to invest in and investigate in our humanity.
The Susan Batson Studio sends out a huge hug full of pride and thanks for Cara’s contribution to the Studio and her continuum of generosity to the actors at the Studio, past and present. Congratulations Cara!
Also congratulations goes to Eric Colton for booking a guest spot on Oxygen’s series My Crazy Love,
and to Chloe Xhauflaire for booking a commercial.
I know that I do not have to write about gratitude. But let me share this story with you: I was walking across DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn with Spike Lee. From everywhere people reached out to him with such joy and pride, to simply say hello. The love and appreciation filled the air. I said, “It feels good, uh?” Spike said, “I stay in a state of grace. Even now walking down the street with you, I’m giving thanks for being with you.” Thanks resounded throughout Brooklyn that day, because I certainly gave thanks for being with Spike Lee.
Your challenge of being an actor has many difficulties—so when good comes as small as a blade of grass or as grand as an Oscar, gratitude lifts its voice from the depth of us.
This past Thursday, James Calleri was at the Susan Batson Studio for Industry Night. After viewing an actor’s work, James Calleri gave the actor the following adjustment: approach the scene with the conviction that your character is right, no matter how wrong he may be. James Calleri went further to suggest this tactic as a tool for the actor’s technique.
In life, I have been accused many times of approaching everything as if I am always right. I’ve been hurt by this accusation, because it is passion that I bring—not right or wrong. After watching the actor make James Calleri’s adjustment, my point was substantiated. What James Calleri’s adjustment did was help the actor to infuse his performance with confidence and indeed passion. Inadvertently, the actor found a way to handle the audition with confidence and with his passion intact, instead of being stuck in a very safe pedestrian performance.
It has always been a contention of mine that the great actor makes CHOICES! Daniel Day Lewis makes choices. Doesn’t the fun of building a character come from the multitude of choices given by the writer, by life and by the imagination? If acting doesn’t bring you joy perhaps it is the wrong choice for you? It is an art form that is predicated upon the ability and willingness to play. So, not having fun making choices and not just learning lines and repeating them aloud are the antithesis of what the art form of acting is.
I witnessed what James Calleri’s adjustment brought out in the actor. And, I would advise that if you are going into an audition feeling not one hundred percent certain of your choices— do the Calleri technique of “my character is always right—no matter how wrong he is.” If this technique is fully employed by the actor, the audition will be alive with confidence and passion. Now, for it to be art? Please explore and employ the joy of making choices in creating a character, and breathing life into the writer’s words.