17 Things. Yeah… 17. Why Not?
I was recently back at my grad program’s Alma Mater: CASE / Cleveland Play House MFA and saw the incredible Woody Sez with such performers as David Lutken, Leenya Rideout, David Finch and Helen Russell. Being with them was wonderful, as was visiting old haunts and talking to the current 1st and 3rd year grad students. Below are some notes I took before speaking with them. Maybe a thing or two will stick.
1. This is a long career, not American Idol. You will give up and start over in your mind 20 times a year. Or more. Brace for the long haul.
2. Set realistic expectations, enormous goals, live in the tension of the juxtuposition, and know that deep disappointment is a given. But… You probably will surprise yourself. Everything is possible!
3. Treat others as you want to be treated. Kindness can not be overrated. This is a business of being talented and being well liked. Sometimes being well liked trumps being talented. Nepotism will be fought at every turn.
4. Nothing is wasted. Everything is used, even if takes years to loop back around.
5. Do not give into cynicism and negativity. It is the temptation of the age, cynicism. It’s sexy. But it slowly erodes your hope. Cynicism is actually a mask for hoplessness in others becuase it’s a lot easier to condescend then to admit you have no hope. Dare to be the gentle Light of hope.
6. Failure is never final unless you let it be and you can NOT take it personally despite how personal it feels. Failure is where you find your character, lessons for the next endeavor and the tenacity to endure. Success can’t build character, unfortunately, the way failure can.
The person of true success is just the one who has failed the most the fastest without losing enthusiasm.
7. Create structure for yourself if you don’t have it already built into your day. It is essential for productivity and mental stability.
8. Find community: theatre, church, circles of friends. New York can be insufferably lonely. It can also be the most enriching feast for the soul if you find a nourishing family of people.
9. Network, network, network and stretch yourself socially.
10. Simultaneously, forget those people. Create work for yourself instead of waiting for others to cast you. Work harder than you think you can. Leave room for the Holy Ghost.
11. Always memorize your sides if you are going in for TV / Film. That is the bare minimum as far as preparation. If it’s theatre, why not memorize as well? but it’s not totally required. It will just make the audition better. Always keep your sides with you, though.
12. Develop a skill. Copywriting, temping, web design, real estate, writing, teaching, interior design. What would you do if you didn’t do this? Also, do you play the guitar, piano, sing? GET AS GOOD AS YOU CAN.
13. This is not a race. For you to win, others don’t have to lose. That is a poverty mentality and as F Murray Abraham said recently in the NY Times, Comparison Leads to Violence.
14. Work for the Win / Win via Collaboration. Compromise is good but it’s not the best.
15. This is a numbers game. Each audition is a chance for you to practice your craft. If it’s not you now, focus on doing excellent work and it will probably be you later.
16. Life is more than acting. Go live your life and trust that it will feed your craft when it’s supposed to.
17. Finding your identity and self worth in your work will ultimately be destructive. Make the separation.