Sunday, November 9, 2014

I QUIT! Which Actor Dream Killer is to Blame?

A Break from Acting for the Wrong Reasons

I wouldn't read this if I were you.  You might not like what you find.  Then might just be inspired to dive right back in.

So goes the seemingly endless paradox that is acting.  No matter what (or who) killed it for you, you are most assuredly running away from the wrong thing. 

What was the last straw for you?  Was it the endless auditioning?  Was it the fanatical director?  Backstage drama?  Theatre politics?  Who or what was it that sucked the creative blood out of your soul to such an extent that you made the decision to wrap your creative self into a blanket, tie weights around it, and plunge it into the nearest river?  Ah-HA!!  YOU did it!  All sadness aside, maybe it was simply the nonpracticality of an acting career with spouse and kids.

You Are HERE

So where are you right now?  Not asking about which room in your house.  I'm just wondering if you are
- On the brink of stepping out;
- 40 years out of it, toying with the idea of What Might Have Been;
- Feeling the ache to get back into it harder to deal with; or
- Still in it, and painfully close to "taking a break" from search for the Big Break.

Well, maybe

(stick with me here)

just maybe

I can help.

Come with me over here for a moment.  I want to show you something.

Look, an exploding heart.  Oops!  Sorry, I should have warned you.  But the truth is sports writers, backed by leading scientists and medical experts, agreed the human heart would most certainly explode if a human were even able to force his body to run one mile in less than four minutes.  As human beings we simply are not built (and therefore not capable) of achieving such a feat. 

So it was thought in until 1954, anyway.  But Englishman Roger Bannister knew in his heart--er, um, somehow knew he could accomplish it.

Think about this for a second: Up until that time, no one on the planet had ever done such a thing.

Yet, after Sir Roger Bannister broke this "unbreakable" record in May of 1954, he broke his own record about two months later. 

And guess what?  Numerous others were suddenly able to do the same thing.

Why?  What changed? 

Quite simply, Sir Roger Bannister changed our minds for us.  What was it Einstein said?  "The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking."

If you'll allow me to rephrase it: 
Your world, including your present set of circumstances, is a product of your thinking.  If you want to change your circumstances, you must change your thinking.

What the hell are you saying, Tom--that this is all MY FAULT?

Hey, don't blame me. I warned you not to read this.  Rather than "fault," how about use the word "responsibility."

Look, we can argue about the degree to which each of us creates his own reality, but that's not the point.  Frankly, it doesn't matter so much who is to blame for getting you where you are.  What matters is what you will do about it.

Your Key to the Door Back In

You've read this far, so you might as well read what I have for you, right?  After all, even if I had the power to do so, I am not going to brainwash you; I am not going to take anything away from you.  So read on, my friend, and chew on this for a bit.

Do this.  

Pretend just for a moment that what you are about to read is the truth.  Even if you initially bulk at it, swallow it for now.  Deal?

The thing likely out of kilter in terms of your Acting life is your definition of Success.

How easily are you able to--right now--speak or write a fluid sentence that describes your definition of success?

Wait--don't let your eyes glaze over.  Here, this will help:
You are a multibillionaire.  That's right, you have something in the neighborhood of $45 billion dollars.  All yours.  Ta-da!  After you quit your crappy job, travel around the world, buy all the luxuries and niceties that make living easier and more enjoyable, etc., well... you have to do something that means something.

There.  Since you are no longer hampered (stay with me here) by the need to make money to live, WHAT NOW IS YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS?

Forget the fact that some of you are still stuck on having so much money (the guilt; arguing with the Practical Mind; feelings of self loathing or helplessness, whatever).  Just let that be a given that money is no object.  Period.  

That being the case, what ultimately is your definition of success?

You see, the fact is you might very well have been living someone else's expectations.  After all, do you really want to be a movie star?  Is Broadway "it" for you?  Come on, what is it YOU want to do that will make a difference?

Yes, you did lose something.  Or lost sight of something.  And it's easy to assign blame on a person, people, situation, circumstance.  The truth is, those things only serve to reinforce the doubt and fear that are a natural part of the human experience.  So don't focus on "fault" but rather on the responsibility you have to your true self, your higher Self.

Reason for the Dream

It is one of the other great paradoxical facets of acting: On the one hand you want to escape yourself (I just love being somebody else); on the other hand...

All You Have Is YOU.

Yup.  Sorry.  You cannot be somebody else.  So stop looking on YouTube for how someone else did the role.  Trust yourSelf, your past experiences (as limited as you might think them), trust everything that is a part of you--the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.  All of that makes up your ego, so never check it at the door.  It is your egotism you want to check at the door.

Now, it is true that once you embrace who you are, it is quite possible for you to appear to be somebody else.  And I don't necessarily mean because of makeup and costume.  After all, it has been your experience that one actor can wear a mask and completely transform himself while another actor can be readily identified in spite of an entire get-up. 

And yes, it is easier for some actors to play roles quite the opposite of themselves, while others find it so much easier to be type-cast.

Whatever and whomever it is that threatens to keep you at bay, when you identify what really gets you jazzed... once you can pinpoint the part of the art that fires you up... the easier it will be to achieve the dream.  So don't blame anyone else.  Look, you were very probably so excited about getting on the bus, you did not even notice the ticket you bought.  No wonder you ended up here. 

Knowing what you now know, it is time to be brave enough to move forward with what you have. 

And beware: It is so easy to get caught up in all the "things" you'll need.

Everything you need, you already have.  "Yay! I don't need any training!"  Well, okay, no, I didn't mean that.  Look, if you need to take a class and get some training--fine.  Once you know that and go for it, the money will fall into place.  All I mean is do not get caught up in the myth that you have to be in X city to be "discovered."  Remember: Identify the Dream, your Dream.  

You can only truly give of yourself when you own who you are.  And at that point, my friend, the stepping stones--no matter how far it seems you are from reaching the dream--you will be constantly creating the right time and the right place.  You just won't be able to see the path until you've reached that point.

Always go back to basics:  

  • What do I love?  
  • What is important?  
  • How will I give?  
  • What do I value?
Oh, and about the money thing... If you have guilt around getting paid for your art, get over it.  Some things are worth volunteering for.  Some art is worth giving away.  What you have to give is unique and incredibly valuable.  It is not a bad thing to enrich your bank account while enriching your life. 

Remember: The more you enrich yourSelf, the more of You you have to give.

Here's to your Empowerment.

Change the way you Think
Change the way you Act

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It Is What's Keeping You Down

or Why Did EmpoweredActor Go Away?

Well, first of all, although has been dormant for quite some time, it never really went away.  In fact...sheesh, I can't believe it's been so long.  I would swear to God it has not been eight years since Empowered Actor began to take shape.  Some of it is almost like a slow-motion car wreck--well, no; that's not fair.  So much of it was good... Good lord, I take back the car wreck comment. 

But wait... This article is more about you than me, as promised in the headline.  The answer to the sub-headline can wait.  Now understand something: At this writing in the middle of April 2014 there are a whopping 14 "Members" of this so-called blog.  That fact alone threatens to prompt me to hit the X to close the browser and just go back into hibernation.

And THAT's what's been keeping you from doing what you need to do.  Make no mistake, it is Fear you allow to knock you off track.  

It can seem reassuring to wrap yourself in the cold comfort that a circumstance, situation, or another person is the cause for your place in the scheme of things (You Are Here).  I invite you to drop that wet blanket, and come with me.

It's ironic (and telling), but the last article I wrote here (...Or Will You Be Crushed?)  portends exactly the darkness I was to enter.  Damn, I thought I was headed upward.  The challenge I speak of in the article is the Challenge of Self.  "It's scary stepping up to the calling in your life," I wrote.  But you are still reading because you want to know how to get out of your own way.

Ah, well, the answer is deceptively simple.  Uh, or deceptively hard.'s difficult to say, it's... well, deceptive.  Okay, well, I suppose it's both.  Yes, it's a paradox.  It is an ongoing struggle because, again, it is the Challenge of Self.  You can only get out of your way by responding to that call within.  To ignore it or try to fight it off only invites disease.  But to respond to the call, you have to be able to hear it.  I think so many people have boarded up access to their calling long ago. 

Now...for those who can hear the call, how muffled and distorted is it?  I mean, you might think you're listening to the right voice but--oh, there's the rub: Do I hear the voice of my Higher Self, or is  Wait, huh?  Ugh...

Yes, it is difficult to tell sometimes whether you are responding to intuition, or if you've just gotten really good at fooling yourself.

But keep searching.  And learn to listen to the voice that you may learn to distinguish.  Your clarity and understanding will come in waves, along with the fog and darkness of self-deception.  Literally, I suggest you track the "suggestions" you get from within as they come, as well as whether you followed or didn't heed its advice.  This manner of tracking and reflection will rapidly boost your ability to discern.

How the hell does this tie to acting?  

Are you serious?  All right, then.
Cast as Warboys in Miss Maxwell's Spider Web, a play performed at the National Archives once upon a time, I received one of my greatest acting lessons.  I was to enter downstage right and confidently toss my hat successfully all the way to the upstage left coat rack.  Well, through rehearsals and performances I never made it.  I didn't practice enough (I was apparently afraid to) and consistently stayed firmly planted in my own way.

Until one night.

I entered as usual (doing what I believed was acting) and ran smack into myself.  I tossed the hat.  And made it.  And I was stunned.  You know, I mean, it was really effortless.  Well, the true and spontaneous delight of the audience was a reflection of the blatant honesty of my surprise.  In the magic of that oh-so-brief moment, the audience knew...everything.  They knew: 1) I was supposed to have done this every performance; 2) Until now I had never achieved this goal--in fact, they knew I had resigned myself to never making it; and 3)They had witnessed My First Time.

Yes (and remember this), all of that was conveyed in such a brief moment by the power of honesty.  

I tried to cover it up, of course--the honesty of my surprise, that is.  But it was no use, the truth had been revealed.  Unfortunately for the audience, the magic of theatre was over for the night.  I went right back to doing what I thought was acting.  (It is my cold comfort to tell you the rest of the cast did the same.)

Still not clear?  Still not sure what "It" is in this article title?

It's all they want, my friends.  It is that thing you keep turning away from.  It is you.  They have come to see you, you know.  You, not some mask of your oh-so-creative construction.  They just want to see you, honest and vibrantly alive.  For only in seeing you can they hope to catch a glimpse of themselves, which is why we go to the theatre.  And it is, of course, why you are in theatre: to find out who you are.  

So don't fool yourself that you get to be somebody else on stage.  Sure, it can be fun to dazzle everyone with glitter, smoke and mirrors--and there is nothing wrong with that.  The lights can be so beautiful, so mesmerizing.  But nothing -- Nothing -- can outshine the light of you doing what you were meant to do.

So please tell me: Why on earth would you want to be anyone else?


Copyright (c) 2014 Tom Brooks.  All Rights Reserved.