Perfect Time and Space

Understanding that things come in their own perfect time and space can try your patience or set you free. There is a bit of mythology surrounding the actress Mildred Dunnock, who started her acting career in her late 30’s. Some say she was a bank teller and some say she was a teacher. The truth about her prior occupation is irrelevant, because that day in her late 30’s, when she made the decision to act, brought her great rewards (two Academy Awards nominations, one for Death of a Salesman and the other for Baby Doll, and many other awards). Certainly, one can say that Mildred Dunnock’s career arrived in its perfect time and space.

Recently, I was watching the 2014 Tony Awards and experienced perfect time and space example. Let me set the stage for you: in 2004, I joined David Binder as a producer for the Broadway revival of the great play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, starring Sean Combs. It was a very successful production. The 2004 production was Tony nominated for Best Revival of a Play- it did not win. The three actresses in the production (Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, and Sanaa Lathan) were Tony nominated. Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald won. Of course when I was involved with the 2004 A Raisin in the Sun revival, I wanted not only to be nominated, but to win. It was not about me- I couldn’t believe that this great play didn’t win!

Ten Years later (2014) as I watch the Tony Awards, I saw A Raisin in the Sun, now produced by Scott Rudin, win a Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Perfect time and space? The director, Kenny Leon, won the 2014 Best Director Tony for Best Revival Play- when he was directing the play in 2004 he wasn’t nominated for a Tony Award. Perfect time and space? Seated in the audience of the Tony ceremony was David Binder, the producer with myself and others of the 2004 production. This year, he was the winning producer of a Tony for Best Musical Revival (Hedwig and The Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris).  So as A Raisin in the Sun is winning for Best Revival of a Play, David Binder in all of his generous joy and passion accepts the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. Yes, all perfect time and space.

As I watched all the happenings, I was laughing and crying, experiencing an epiphany filled with poetic justice. Divine intervention, truth, love and passion, for a moment the world spiraled in perfect time and space, from prehistoric time to me present. All has come to us in perfect time. The question is: Will you be ready when it arrives?

Get ready because it will arrive in its perfect time!

Congratulations to all Tony winners, and a big smile for Kenny Leon and A Raisin in the Sun winners. And David Binder, I thank you for your inspiration and integrity.

Always in the art, Susan Batson

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An Open Letter from Laverne Cox of ‘Orange is the New Black’ to Susan Batson- And Susan’s Response!

Dear Susan,

I just got a Critics Choice Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for Orange is the New Black. Thank you so much for all your guidance, support and for a process that truly serves the art. Love you!

Stay in the love,

                          Laverne Cox

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Dearest Laverne,

For me this Critics Choice Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress is the equivalent to a victorious civil war like the French Revolution, or like Toussaint L’Ouverture in Haiti, or Nat Turner’s insurrection in the United States. This nomination is an equivalent of this type of victory!  You demanded, commanded, battled every obstacle, every taboo, every no, and you won. No one will ever know the sacrifices you made, the fear that you experienced, the hurt and pain that you endured but how fortunate you have made us all by sharing this victory with us! From the days of Black Nexxus to the Susan Batson Studio we’ve always been proud of you as an artist and as a teacher, and now you fill us all with joy!
Always in the Art… Love,
                                          Susan
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Susan Batson and everyone at The Susan Batson Studio would like to congratulate Laverne on her much deserved nomination! Here’s to many more… We are rooting for you!

The Only Rule in Acting

Have you ever stopped to contemplate the full implication of the life you have chosen? Stumbling dangerously many times along the road to success- Do you ask yourself, “Should I continue?” The hardships of the profession have broken many a brave contender, but those who persevere, no one or nothing can kill their spirit. They have learned that the survivor is one who keeps on creating, inventing, believing, changing and renewing.

A continuum of practicing and training our craft is one of our most powerful weapons. Reading biographies and autobiographies, not for the chronological events of the actor’s life, but to use as models to help build your own career- Recognizing you are so very fortunate to be a contributor to culture through your creativity can be a strong motivator- Seeking exchanges of criticism in order to grow as an artist- Risking to avoid the conventional to discover new and exciting experimental art forms.

Your art exists in the realms of truth, creativity, imagination, belief, passion and generosity. Perhaps the only “rule” in acting is to honor the human being you are playing. Care enough to create a person with the purpose that other will also honor that human being. You trivialize humanity if you think acting is about learning lines. Acting is about Life and Death- Needs and Wants- Masks and Personas- Tragic Flaws- Actions and Objectives- Conflicts- Crisis- Resolutions- Circumstances- and much more. The human being’s words, who you are playing, enters the actor through the actor’s heart, soul and veins first, and then the brain, along with all of the senses.

Nothing in art has anything to do with rote memory. Actors, beware of anyone who reduces your art form to just learning the lines! Forgive them, for they know not what acting is! The profession of acting is difficult, complicated, complex, but an intriguing way to build character- yours- and other human beings.

Always in the Art,

                          Susan Batson

Congratulations Pamela Afesi! We are Proud of You!

Susan is grabbing her breasts and has a big big smile!  She is so proud of her student Pamela Afesi who just got a wonderful review for her film debut ‘Welcome to New York,”  directed by Abel Ferrara starring Gerard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset.  To read the review click here!

The Universal Language!

The Susan Batson Studio has always had a diverse population of actors. The United States Government has now given the studio the honor of offering Student Visas to our International Actors. For years I have been sharing the work around the world learning not the many languages of the world; but THE LANGUAGETHE LANGUAGE made it possible for me to exchange our acting process with much joy. THE LANGUAGE comes from the Second Brain- Absolutely not from the head- But from the Becond Brain which expresses through sensations the depth and truth of what we feel. When that is done, there is no language barrier, only the art of acting using the sensations and behaviors coming from the second brain which always expresses THE LANGUAGE– The universal language.  If we listen and watch Putin’s Second Brain expression- Avoiding the chatter of his head- We would be far more aware that we are dealing with his feelings of fear and his sensations of not being good enough or strong enough. Then the universal language would move to an exchange with this awareness present.  Perhaps this could change the course of history.

So now politically- Legally the International Actor can come to the Susan Batson Studio with a Visa. But they should know we speak at the studio, The Universal Language- THE LANGUAGE  of the Second Brain. Please join us at the Susan Batson Studio without fear of not being understood. May I suggest to the American actor to also participate in the diverse world of the Susan Batson Studio, and learn The Universal Language- THE LANGUAGE!

Always in the Art, Susan Batson

Likeability

I haven’t written in a while, but on this Thursday for Susan Batson Studio’s Industry Night, I met Joe Thompson, a commercial agent with Abrams Artists Agency.  A revelation occurred for me — he was looking for likeability.  Likeability in the 8 x 10 photo, likeability in the “hello,” likeability in the monologue, and likeability in the one-on-one exchange after the work.  It occurred to me that likeability was never something that I sought.  Talent is always the only thing I regard.  For me, talent has intelligence, sexuality, generosity, and endless creativity.  Is Sean Penn likeable?  To talk about Sean Penn in terms of likeableness seems a bit perverse, because Sean Penn evokes superlatives like great and arresting.  Likeable, absolutely not for Sean Penn.  But, that was what Joe Thompson of Abrams was looking for from the actors at the Susan Batson Studio Industry Night – truly not something taught at the studio.  Yes, if the character you are playing is likeable, then you must be likeable.  It is NEVER taught to find the character’s likeability.  The work at our studio struggles to explore the need, the public persona, the tragic flaw…  in other words the humanity of the character.  But, when Joe kept expressing the need for likeability – I tried to make peace with what he felt was needed to get a commercial agent and/or to get a commercial.  And I started to add up some of the other things he was stressing along with the likeability such as:

  1. Make sure that your hair does not hide even a small fraction of your face.
  2. When in a close-up, be aware of your frame – be alive – but still.  Keep your focus on to whom you are talking to.
  3. NEVER allow your gestures to cover your face.
  4. You must be connected but emotions should not dictate your work.

It was a relief to hear him speak about the actor being connected and him needing to connect to the actor and his work.  So, likeability didn’t exclude the actor who connected; in fact, Joe would offer tissues and sympathy to those who went deep.  For me, this was comforting but a bit frustrating – what exactly did this guy want?  He wanted connection but he wanted this damn likeability?!

If the artist thinks about likeability then the artist is people pleasing…  right?  But, I kept on thinking that somewhere in the recesses of my artist’s soul that there was something to this likeability-thing.  Is that what Pop means?  Is that finally what Star Quality is?  No!  Star Quality is the radiance that shines from a talent with a huge generosity of spirit, boldness, intelligence, sexuality, charisma and creativity.  I’m not talking about a Paris Hilton type celebrity – I’m talking about a Daniel Day Lewis and after seeing Oprah in The Butler, I’m talking about Oprah (not because I worked with her but because she IS Star Quality).  I don’t know if Daniel Day Lewis is likeable and for sure I wouldn’t use that term for Oprah – I find them both formidable.

Actors, what do we do about this likeability – conundrum?  I was acting in a film of my son’s, the great director, Carl Ford – the character was clearly insane, rageful and lost – his only direction was for me to smile at a specific point.  When I saw the film that smile saved my performance.  It didn’t make the character likeable, but it definitely humanized her.  So after all of this torture, does it come down to Michael Jackson’s favorite song “Smile” written by Charlie Chaplin.  Now take a moment to consider Chaplin and Jackson – would you term them likeable?  No!  Perhaps each geniuses in their own right. One loved, and one wrote lyrics such as: “Smile though your heart is aching…  You’ll find that life is still worthwhile – if you just smile.”

So I have concluded that every actor must find their inner joy of acting and the inner joy of their characters.  Again, using Daniel Day Lewis – – didn’t he love telling President Abraham Lincoln’s anecdotal stories?  Even though every other character abhorred them, President Lincoln/Daniel Day Lewis chuckled with a big smile and kept on telling his stories.

Likeability is a result, but joy is a truth that can shine if you allow yourself to be touched by it.

 

Always in the Art,

Susan Batson

Practical Advice for Actors From Marius Bargielski of Metropolis Artists

Again I have had a rather informative evening with Marius Bargielski from Metropolis Artists. Marius Bargielski stressed what “The Starters” must do to get a career off the ground. I have been known to quote two unlikely sources: Cameron Diaz, who said she did something for her actress every business day starting at 10 AM; and Richie Sambora, who said just make sure you show up- That’s all, show up. The following are all suggestions from Marius Bargielski:

  1. Immediately following substantial confirmation of attaining a job, put it on your resume.
  2. Build a website and make sure it has multiple pictures of you on it. No matter how meager your work is, put it on the website. DO NOT string a bunch of scenes together, use short clips in thumbnails, then all your work will be viewed, even if only seconds. Time is essential, no piece of work should be over three minutes, the auditioner will probably spend only seconds viewing it.
  3. Make sure that the work you have attained is also on IMDB.
    NOTE!  In today’s world, technology is your means to gaining professional status. Having any proof of your work allows ‘The Starter’ to be seen!! The days of agents going to a showcase is obsolete, today they go to the computer- Google and click on websites, wander around cyber space for information. It is important to develop technological skills from running a camera to building and updating a website.
  4. Human contact is still in vogue and it is called Networking. This is mandatory as establishing territory in cyberspace. Marius Bargielski suggests that you go to directors and writers conferences… Not necessarily as an actor, but as a “Starter” writer or director. Donate your time to various organizations that support the arts, and perhaps rub elbows with the elite of the industry. Don’t be afraid to use your attractiveness- no you are not prostituting- you are a “Starter” who is building a career, getting to know as many people as possible in the business and learning to show-up! Be cautious, but social media can also be helpful if used with discretion.
  5. ACTORS ACCESS IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY FOR “THE STARTER!!” You can submit yourself for jobs that will help you to build a resume.
  6. For “The Starter” with very little on your resume, the section where you can list your skills is very important. Having a particular skill, and no credits could possibly be the very thing that gets you an audition or the job. Do not treat this section frivolously. Spend time selecting your skills, which are distinctive and usable for theatrical purposes. Don’t list commercials, write: List upon Request.
  7. “The Starters” have another avenue to meet people: it is to watch television, determining the television show you are right for, then noting, who is the casting agent, for that show and contracting them. It may seem an exercise in futility,  but you may get lucky. This is at least one thing you can do at 10 AM on a business day!
    NOTE! Marius Bargielski said he would come back to do a business workshop for all the talented people at the Susan Batson Studio.

It is very clear to me that I must do these industry nights. My concern has always been for the art/craft of acting, never for the business. I cannot encourage you enough to recognize that you are in Show Business! Without neglecting the craft, we at The Susan Batson Studio are more and more challenging ourselves to bring to the BUSINESS great artists! I am sure it can be done!

Liz Lewis Casting is coming to our Industry Night. I can’t wait… What a wealth of knowledge we will gain! Show up… Just show up!

Always in the Art, Susan Batson

P.S Marius Bargielski strongly suggested to skip getting the 0-1 Visa and take a risk and apply for a Green Card.