Why I Act.
Everyone who knows me knows I am an actor. They also know I enjoy painting, singing, practicing guitar, and photography. They know I am an artistic person. Whether or not they think my art is any good is beside the point. It has to be for any artist. Many of those who know me though have been confused by acting and why I do it. I think, fairly, they are also fearful of it. They understand the music and the visual art-on-canvas, but something about the true nature of acting is lost. And so, often I am encouraged to explore my other artistic passions because the reasons I choose acting as my favored art form have been unconsciously hidden beneath a blanket of vanity (oh the many head shots that I post to social media asking for opinions and soaking in the love) and an overt and honest desire for success (ie MONEY) in the entertainment industry. In short, even if you know me, you probably don’t know the real reason I act. This is my own fault because I have taken this long to write, and share, my manifesto. What follows are the deeper reasons I have thus far dedicated my life to a career that has been deemed statistically ill-advised for anyone except a few lucky outliers.
If in person I tried to explain why I act to you, I can guarantee we didn’t have enough time or I was trying to be polite and stop talking about my own personal passion because the reality is I can (and do with my actor friends) talk about this for unlimited hours. How or why is that? Put simply, it is because acting is life. Acting is the art of being truthful in imaginary circumstances. We actors know that last sentence by heart. A great teacher, Sanford Meisner said it. If you think this is easy though, I welcome and encourage you to try it out in a class that demands truthful acting. Even after over ten years of training I know that there is so much work to do. An actor’s work is never done. Nor would we want it to be because that would mean a loss of what an actor truly loves: exploration. I think actors are really adventurers. We are people who desperately want experiences. As far as I know, I only have one life to live. If this is true, I know that there are certain circumstances that my life has presented that I cannot change. Circumstances beyond my control, as well as choices I have made, have sewn the fabric of my past life. Acting allows me the chance to transcend this limitation and experience life as it could have been or could be.
By definition, transcendence is the existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level. In acting we get the opportunity to do this. It’s difficult to put into words the freedom that comes when we allow ourselves as actors to fully embrace this transcendent experience. It can be terrifying, exciting, or heartbreaking. For those who know us as a certain way in our day-to-day life, it can be quite jolting to see us revealing qualities we usually choose not to share. I believe we all have the capacity to live in the light and the dark. It is our daily choices that define the character of a person, not our unlimited potentials. This goes right along with my strong belief in dualities. We usually try not to present to the world certain qualities that we are capable of because we are attempting to be good people, and I think that is positive. In acting though, I have the chance to experience my own personal Mother Theresa and Hitler. If these examples seem extreme, they are. The vast, deep, myriad of the in-between is where we are usually playing. But by experiencing the more “negative” or “ugly” parts of my own humanity, I connect with people who I may have previously judged. I gain compassion.
Compassion. When I first started acting, I couldn’t place my finger on why I loved it so much. Yes, I did love the attention and praise from an audience of course, but there was something else happening while I spent hours memorizing my lines and trying to think like my character. It was compassion. As the proverbial saying goes “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and then see what you think about them. This is quite literally what I was training in. Some actors treat the shoes of their characters as sacred. I can see why, because a character’s shoes are a literal representation of something much deeper than costume pieces.
I have a deep love for humanity. This doesn’t put me above absolutely despising humanity too. (Again with those dualities.) At the core though, I want to love and be loved and believe that most people feel the same. Buried underneath all the fear, shame, guilt, judgement, and jealousy, is a person who desires nothing more than to love and be loved. When I play a character, my aim is to love them and defend them, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes this is more difficult than other times depending on the level of judgment I already have in place. For instance, if my character has committed an act of violence that is difficult to relate to, I have to go much deeper in my exploration of them, of myself. I truly believe that acting has shown me more about how to have compassion than any other pursuit in my life. This may be why many actors are activists as well. We desire a world of compassion, understanding, and ultimately, love.
I also act because I believe it is the most intimate experience of myself I can have. There is no instrument as a conduit between me and the divine flow. I am the instrument. Through me, stories can be told that help people. I truly believe this. There is a reason why so many people relate to television shows, films, and theater. These stories inspire us. They remind us we are not alone. They give us hope. They explain something we couldn’t make sense of or put into words on our own. They make us feel human, and that it’s ok to be. I am so in love with this art form.
Actors are artists. Sometimes this gets forgotten in favor of pretty faces and sexy bodies, social media followers and the dollar signs above our heads. However, we know when we are moved. We know when we see something that changes the air. This is when an actor is making art. My commitment to acting is that I will always strive for the movement of air. For truth. I won’t always succeed. How do I know? I am human. But my goals remain tsI would myself. Reveal. Reveal my innermost demons knowing that I am not alone in harboring them. In the name of Love and Truth, I happily jump into the parts of myself I have yet to understand.
This is my personal quest in my chosen profession. I owe a great deal to acting and I will happily strive to give back what it has given me.