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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Drive to Make it in Show Business

Welcome to the House of Keniston, Where Theater is a Sport

Greetings, and welcome to theater is a sport, my blog where I talk about what's on my mind regarding theater.  It's a good time (I think).  Enjoy your stay.

I've been thinking about "drive" a great deal lately, mainly because I've been talking to some people about what it takes to try to make a living as an actor.  "Drive" is the answer I keep coming up with.

It's interesting:  for those of us who studied acting in college, we learned so much great stuff about craft, technique, keeping our bodies as well-tuned instruments to serve our art.  The business doesn't necessarily care about these things.  It's sad, but acting is a job where, even if you're really, really good at it, there's no guarantee that you'll ever get work.  And if you do, it won't be like your acting class.

And so you need drive.

So what is drive?  I like to think of it as encompassing the following parts:


Allow me to explain.

LOVE, is fairly simple. You need to love to act.  If you don't love to act, sing, or dance, or what-have-you, why would you do it?  Countless better ways to earn your daily bread, believe me.

PASSION, which is different from love, is also essential.  Passion is the fire in your belly, the thing that turns you on, gives you the greatest bliss.  And not just for the performance, but for the process. Passion is thing inside of you that shuns the ordinary and desires the little something extra.  Let's be honest--- if you can make a living from acting, that's pretty extraordinary, isn't it?

NEED, I know may sound bad, but I don't mean it that way.  I simply mean that you must feel that reaching your dreams is a need, like food or water.  Often, people who have "made it" will say that they did so because they aren't suitable for any other kind of life.  I believe them.  If you don't absolutely need to be an actor, then please find something else that makes you happy and do that.  It's not "settling" if it makes you happy and you don't feel pangs of regret.

PERSISTENCE, of course, is key.  You have to constantly be doing things outside of your art for your art, and all for rejection.  And you have to keep doing it over and over and over and over again.

COURAGE, to accept your need, your love and your passion in the face of constant rejection. Courage to live without the hope of financial stability.  Courage to shun social norms and societal expectations.  Courage to constantly risk absurdity.  Courage to fail, and, even harder sometimes, courage to succeed.  Courage to look at yourself in the mirror to keep growing and getting better. Courage to listen to commentary about how you're wasting your time, you're never going to "make it", to hear questions like "when are you going to grow up and get a real job?"  In fact, you need courage to believe you are a grown up, when most of the world will tell you you're not.

RESILIENCE, or, thick skin.  Did I mention you're going to get rejected a whole lot?  It's true.  And when you're being rejected as an actor, it feels like they are rejecting YOU, because your body is your instrument.  And yes, I believe it's even worse for women.  I can't imagine being at a chorus girl "cattle call" audition, and literally having them point out "You, you, you, step forward.  The rest of you, thank you for your time", without really even seeing what you can do.  It is inherently a cruel process, and you have to be able to bounce back from it and do it all again.

FLEXIBILITY, at least until you're "in demand" or have "clout".  You might have to take jobs you're not passionate about, just to get on stage (don't compromise your deep-rooted morals, however). You have to compromise, eat dirt now and again.  They don't always teach you that in acting class.

SELF-ESTEEM, which ties in a bit with resilience, but is something a little different.  You have to believe you're good.  Not to the point where you're a total diva (again, unless you've achieved clout), but yes, there is a little ego involved, and maybe even some good-natured arrogance.  Don't feel bad about this.  You need it.  Facing all this rejection, you have to be able to psyche yourself up and feel good about yourself.  You have to believe.  Which leads me to...

IMMOVABLE FAITH.  You have to have the faith of a zealot. Faith, or course, is having believing in something, even without hard proof.  And actors need to have this kind of faith and belief--- a faith in themselves, of course, and faith in the fact that they WILL reach their goals.  That it is MEANT TO BE.  This faith is what can give you courage and resilience.

ACCEPTANCE.... I know some of you are probably thinking that this "acceptance" I'm talking about, is the acceptance to realize when it's time perhaps to pursue other things.  Nope.  This is a post about drive after all.  There's nothing else to pursue in this post.  The kind of acceptance I'm talking about is the acceptance that, in order to make it in the business, you have to remember it is a business. The art and the craft, which is what is responsible for your love and your passion, is not enough.  You could be the best actor of your generation, and never find work.  You also have to accept that, like I mentioned earlier, the stuff you learn in your acting classes in school, while serving your personal work, are not going to ensure your employment with a director who's process is completely different (remember flexibility?)  Acceptance of the fact that, while your heart wants to play Hamlet, you need to WANT to book that national laxative commercial just as much, and put just as much work into it as you would the world's most famous soliloquy.  You have to accept that sometimes, you may feel a little phony with people because you need them as a connection.  You have to accept that you are a PRODUCT and part of your job is to make yourself a BRAND.  A brand that people want to buy.  A brand that you're constantly tweeting about, and sharing on other social media.  Accept that this brand might lead to type casting, but, at least you're working, and one day you'll step out of your wheelhouse and show what you can really do. You have to accept that your love and passion comes with a lot of hurdles, and you're not always going to feel satisfied at the end of the day.  But you happily accept climbing more of that mountain day after day.

That's what drive is, ladies in gentlemen, in my humble opinion.  And, while I possess some of these fine qualities, I am lacking in others, which is why I never really pursued the big stages (more on that in another post).  And, no, I didn't intend for this to be a depressing post.  Just something to demonstrate a bit of a universal truth people don't always talk about--- to make it in show business, it's not enough to love the show.  You've gotta do the business.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on this subject in the comment section below. I'd love to hear what others think.

Thanks for reading Theater is a Sport.  Come back soon.

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