The current state of acting in this country is more uninspiring than it should be. In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, aspiring young actors flocked to New York City to train with some of the greatest master teachers in the United States. Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, Bobby Lewis, Michael Chekhov, Stella Adler, and Elia Kazan produced a generation of exceptionally well-trained artists who possessed the craft and technique that defined the art of acting. What we have today is a generation of aspiring actors who view acting as the greatest opportunity for fame, success, money, and attention. In a pop culture dominated by quick ways to create celebrity, the art of acting has been sorely corrupted. Add to this a void in the number of actual master teachers who have devoted their lives to instilling craft and artistry into their students, and we have a generation of dreamers who lack a true vision of the type of artist they want to be; many who want the superficial rewards of success without owning the passion and work-ethic that must be the foundation of a life in the arts.
If you want to be an actor, what does that mean to you? If it is a calling that vibrates in your bones, if told that you would have to give up this dream would crush your soul, then you must get serious with yourself. As I tell my students, if you want to be an artist, then you must ask yourself one critical question: What is my contribution to this art form going to be?
Thousands and thousands of people say with ease, “I want to be an actor”. I can tell you after 25 years immersed in acting, and 15 years training thousands of students, only a small number really want to put in the hard work to make a life in art truly possible.
Mastering the Physical and Vocal Instrument
The greatest artists are masters of their instrument. They have toiled because their art was profoundly important to them. Artists like Bruce Springsteen, Marina Abromovic, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kanye West, Toni Morrison, and Damien Hirst create because they have no choice. Creativity is as important to them as breath. I find all too often that once an actor in my class discovers how truly difficult it is to create fully realized human behavior consistently, when they realize how much work they must put into mastering their physical and vocal instrument, when they understand how important reading and knowing the history, plays and playwrights that have shaped the art form must be, many simply quit. I welcome that decision. I am always happy for them because my hope is that they will discover what truly feeds their soul and inspires them to bust their ass. They love acting; they just aren’t actors. It’s the real actors that have the grit, resiliency, and courage to put in the hard work needed to become first-rate artists.
You must have a vision of the type of actor you want to be. And don’t kid yourself. It’s easy to see young, beautiful models who masquerade on TV and Film as actors and think all you need is good looks and ability to memorize lines. I guarantee you that they will not be acting in their 40’s. Money and success are not the reason to pursue a life in art. If you have something to say, if you have a deep desire for the privilege of stepping into the shoes of another human being and illuminating the human condition, if you want to challenge humanity to think deeper about their relationships and their treatment of their fellow human, then maybe you have the makings of a first-rate actor and artist. If so, train relentlessly, and take yourself seriously.