I’ve recently left a stage show that I’ve worked on for a few years, and emotionally, it’s akin to a breakup. There’s depression, guilt, doubt, and ultimately relief, which is the stage I’m entering (finally!). I’ve jumped off the treadmill, and the world isn’t blurring past any longer, unnoticed and unappreciated. I’m breathing again.
When you get a group of actors together, one of two things can happen: you can bolster each other through shared experience, or you can make each other insane through shared anxiety. In my experience, it’s usually the latter that happens. Like sharks, actors are afraid to stop moving lest our dreams die (“… and when you meet him, he will win.”) We’re desperate because we believe that every minute decision can either lead to the promised land… or to the big break on which we’ll lose out. The biggest fear is to be the actor’s equivalent of Pete Best. Cut your hair wrong? Forget a line? Step on a casting director’s toe? It’s McDonald’s for life, buddy. Have fun watching Paul and John on Ed Sullivan.
Once you step out of the rarefied air of a frenzied, tangling mass of wanting people, you begin to achieve clarity. Going, going, going isn’t the way to “win.” It’s the way to feel you are DOING, certainly, but it’s action for action’s sake; it’s just distraction. What I’ve sadly forgotten is that I can live my life and still pursue my dreams. In fact, I can do it better because I’m focused, thoughtful, and present. And isn’t that what actors are supposed to master–being present?