Joe Thompson of the Likeability-Fame offered me another delicious expression: Vertical Growth. I am of the upward mobility generation. Vertical Growth is stuff of mastery- upward mobility is of economic growth. I was absolutely thrilled when Joe emphasized that the actor must focus on Vertical Growth. You don’t have to be very wise to know that if you want Vertical Growth as an actor you must at least put in the much talked about ten thousand hours on your craft. What pleases me is that Joe Thompson of Abrams, part of the show business Industry, has expectations of Vertical Growth from the artists he encounters.
Needless to say, there isn’t an artist worth anything who is not invested in their individual Vertical Growth. What I am stressing here from the erudite Joe Thompson is that it is an expectation of the Industry. Let that encourage you to keep training-keep risking-keep exploring yourself and your art form. Often we’re stuck in the inevitable signs of mediocrity of our business, and that can be very discouraging. So let’s seize this vote for excellence from Joe Thompson, and challenge ourselves to gain our greatness, moving always vertically to our goal.
If you’ve been wronged, do you fight to make it right? Most actors feel that they have been wronged when they don’t receive the role they desired. Can you fight for it? Yes, of course you can fight for that role with all your might – with great work and passion- they say Kate Winslet moved mountains to get her role in Titanic. “No” does not have to be a final answer. To tell the truth, I believe that the actor receives the role that belongs to him/her, there is this serendipitous realm in the world in which actors live.
But, being raised by an activist I have implanted in me the commitment to always fight for one’s rights, what is just, and honest. It does not matter if you win or lose—it is the way you play the game. Recently I was horrified when I heard an adviser to actors say: that two blond, blue-eyed actresses would be cast as a citizen of Milwaukee. Then he pointed to two black actresses and said: that they would not be cast as citizens from Milwaukee. As of 2013, there were 66.6% of white Americans in Milwaukee and 38.3% of African American citizens in Milwaukee. So it is very possible that African American actors could be cast as a person from Milwaukee!! This guy who counsels actors was not playing fair–in fact he may have been playing a racist game–or simply he was ill informed. There are African American citizens living in Milwaukee.
Okay, I get it—it is an amusement park world where show business exists. But come on, play the game with honesty, justice and equality.
Recently, I heard a cry: “I don’t know how to prepare!” I was stunned. In our program at the Susan Batson Studio, there is scheduled five times a week a class designed to help the actor learn how to prepare. I looked into the young faces overwhelmed by the difficulty of their art form. I quickly informed them of the last step of my preparation, which was to sit on the toilet having made the creative choice of how the character urinates and defecates. My acting mentor Herbert Berghof told me it was a must for an actor to know this detail. Ah Brave New World, the future of the art smiled, but they certainly did not embrace this information with the passion and profundity that I did when I listened to Herbert Berghof. I questioned if I could inspire a young actor of 2014?
It was important to stress that no two actors prepared in the same way. It takes self-discovery to develop a basic actor’s preparation. This self-discovery should be a way of life for the actor for the rest of the actor’s life. Stanislavsky termed it the “Daily Actor’s Toilette.” In order to master the art form of acting, the young actor must develop a relationship with their personal internal world. This relationship can only be achieved through the “Daily Actor’s Toilette.” Since the search for the character starts from within the actor, there is a need to stress how important self-discovery is. Further, it should be noted that every character we find within us must be transformed completely into the character of the text. This transformation causes the actor’s basic preparation to take on new elements to assist transformation into character.
Our responsibility to the humanity we play is crucial. We must create a walking, talking human being– one that lives on the screen and/or stage. Our job requires skill. You must not only be in daily self-discovery, but also the actor must learn the techniques of acting and develop their own method. Without a process you cannot be a master of your craft. You will not create an organic life for your character.
So, Ah Brave New World, perhaps a Stanislavsky is amongst you! You are certainly the future of our art form. How do you prepare? Do your “Daily Actor’s Toilette”. Develop your own method. Commit to finding the character in you and transforming that character to a walking talking human being on the stage and/or screen. Dig into your own creative resources for inspiration to further serve your actor. Finally, it is my belief that you will create your own preparation for each character, because you have committed to the powerful responsibility to the humanity you are creating.