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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Absolute BEST Advice For Anyone Pursuing a Life in the Theater: or, Why I Do What I Do

Take a Look into One of These
 Hello everyone and welcome to Theater is a Sport.  My name is Bobby Keniston.  I am a published playwright, and actor, director, and a part-time theater teacher.  I do what I do because I love what I do. 

But that's not the only reason.

No, I do what I do not only because I love it, but because it is what I am wired to do.  I am wired to either be onstage or writing works that are meant to be performed on stage.  Even my teaching is an off-shoot of this, and not the other way around. 

In a way, I sometimes feel like I don't have a choice.  I do, of course, I am consciously aware that I could start a new direction tomorrow, perhaps become an accountant, or at least find a steady job with good benefits, a retirement plan, all of that good stuff that I do not have, and somehow feel I should (at least if I want to be considered an adult). 

But then again--- what's so great about being an adult?

I digress.  Tonight, I am going to give the best advice possible for any young person looking to pursue a life in theater, whether it be as a performer or as a writer.  Are you ready?  I assure you, this is honestly the best advice I can give you.  It is also the same advice I would give most people looking to become a professional athlete... the same applies. 


Here it is:

If you can imagine yourself, even slightly imagine yourself being happy pursuing another occupation, a safter one, then I highly recommend you pursue that other occupation. 

There it is.  The best advice, I promise.

This is not meant to discourage anyone from pursuing a life in the arts.  Far from it.  I would never discourage anyone from taking the path that feels right to them. 

In all honesty, though, it is important to take a look in the mirror, if you will, take stock of everything that is inside of you, and decide--- is this what would make me happiest?  Can I picture myself being just as happy in another line of work? 

If you can, do that other thing.  Please.  No, I'm not trying to limit my future competition, I'm just trying to help. 

While you are looking in that mirror, it might behoove you to try another exercise:  look at yourself, and pretend to be other people, voices of doubt.   "You don't really think you can make a go of this, do you?"   "There's, like, 99% unemployment for actors!"  "You're not good enough"   "You've got to be better"

Does this fill you with feelings of doubt?  Or, does this fill you with a certain drive to prove yourself?

Are you a thick-skinned person?  Do you deal well with rejection?  These are all things to look at. 

Actors and writers get rejected a lot.  Also, students in a theater program at respectable college are most likely going to have situations with a professor that make them feel worthless or, at the very least, not good enough.  It's just how it is.  Thos who never have that experience are the truly lucky ones. 

So, you're looking in the mirror.  No doubt has set in.  Those comments are no big deal.  Rejection--- hey, it's a part of life, there are always other opportunities.  Sounds like you're in a good place to give it a go. 

For me, I have never felt a doubt.  Never.  I've known what I was supposed to do for most of my life.  And, yes, I say supposed to do, because I do believe it is what I am supposed to do.  I honestly feel that living a theatrical life is how I best serve the world.  Maybe that sounds silly, but it is how I feel.  Of all the doubts I've had in my life (and I've had many), this has never been one of them.

You will struggle, emotionally and financially.  That's just how it is. 

You will try and try, and probably not get much for it.  Again, that's just how it is.

But the moments when you push through will give you an unbelievable joy.  You will have to work for these moments, but they will come.  You will find that standards of success in the arts are very different than standards of success in say, oh, being a stock broker.  You need to love the process and not just the performance.  You need to fall in love with what you do all over again on practically a daily basis.  You will learn there are levels between being a star and being out of work.  You will get day jobs just to support pursuing your art, and will have to learn not to complain about being tired or broke because of it. 

Because success is there.  It is possible.  I am not living a financially stable life from my playwriting, but I am leading a rewarding one, and, year by year, my career and royalty checks begin to grow.  It is a process that sometimes feels like one step forward and one step back, but you start stepping faster and farther. 

But before you can, you have to make sure this is the journey you want.  And if it isn't, that's okay. 

If it is, then you are like me--- a poor, damn fool who can't help yourself. 

After all, speaking for myself, I'm not good at much else. 

Thanks for reading Theater is a Sport today.  Tomorrow.... well, we'll just see, won't we?

Until then:  the mirror is your friend, always be honest with yourself, and remember that theater is not only a craft and an artform.  Theater is a sport.


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