I’m very ambivalent about drama teachers and the classes that people go to. I think people’s instincts are crushed by bad drama teaching. I’ve watched it happen…It’s so often that the people who are actually the best are the ones who are thrown out of drama school because they’re idiosyncratic. They’re peculiar. They don’t fit any nicely tied-up box. In fact, they are the most interesting artists.—– Helen Mirren
The most interesting artists disappear when the business of acting moves to the forefront and the art of acting retreats to the background. When the training is on becoming marketable, a focus on achieving immediate results replaces developing the actors ability in the art of experiencing. If Vincent van Gogh had trained to be marketable he would have been told to tone down the colors and use less paint. Training to be marketable and training in an art are two completely different fields. You jump into one field or you jump in the other.
Business follows art. That’s the order. We’re in trouble when art follows business.
Art is untamed. Art enters unknown territory. Art is a pioneer and it must lead. But when art follows business we enter a different playing field. This field is completely lit up, it has very clear instructions, and a lot of experts. In fact, when art follows business, it feels good. It’s enticing to learn acting purely as a craft. It’s so safe and so clear. It all fits, to use the phrase that Helen Mirren used, “in a nicely tied up box.” You learn how to perform and someone can tell you if you’re doing it the right way or the wrong way. There’s less risk and virtually no responsibility. In a fundamental way, the actor studies how to please. This study is in direct opposition to art.
But it’s very easy to fall into that trap. It’s a pleasant, comfortable trap.
If you value individuality then the work is to recognize when you’re looking for something, or someone else, to hang onto. Acting is a process of self-discovery. It’s your discovery. Your experience matters. The satisfaction in acting is authenticity of expression, and the first step is to purify that expression. Your work is to do what Michelangelo said he did to create the masterpiece that is David: all he had to do was to chip away at everything that is not David. You must work to chip away at everything that is not you.
It is challenging work, and not only is it challenging, it’s expensive. It’s going to cost you. You don’t get it for free. And your payment is your fear. Or, your shame. Or, your failure. Whatever it is that keeps you all bundled up and hidden away. What else will allow you to step outside into the world of discovery? To actually take on your art and fulfill yourself?
If you made the decision to go into acting, you may as well actually do it.