BWW Blog: On the Profession of Acting

BWW Blog: On the Profession of ActingThe profession of acting is for warriors. Men and women who choose to make their living going job to job in multiple acting forums and media, with occasional side jobs of distant sorts to ensure the electricity remains on, have some tough stories. And they are strengthened by them, and educated by them...and they are working.

There are, as in any profession, costs. Consider that you could be, by far, the most skilled candidate in the room and still not be hired because of what you look like. Consider that you will spend hours of preparation and hundreds of dollars on a day of four to five auditions and gain only a parking ticket. Consider that you are asked to show your wares for 90 seconds and that if you are lucky you'll get 60 more seconds to make a sale.

Now consider that amongst this, it is incumbent upon you to have an open mind, a flexible body, a selfless heart, and an embrace of both mystery and strangers.

To me, working actors are noble beyond compare.

One of the most expensive costs, however, in my opinion, that I continually observe and have begun in the last two years to speak about to whomever is in the room with me, is breath.

There are many voice and speech disciplines for theatre in the world (the one discipline being not at all like the other). Though I have explored several, for me the discipline that encourages breath and release on text far more effectively than any other is Kristin Linklater's progression. In breath, there is the possibility of the authentic actor being seen and heard, the possibility of inspiration, the possibility of surprise, the possibility of opening into a well of emotional experience that is not about making a conscious choice - rather about healthfully employing what is already owned.

But the acting profession seeks to cull winners and losers, success and failure, instantly. This creates gripping tension, which in turn makes genuine breath the very last thing you might consciously seek. Why lay open your very maw, your waking dream and sleeping nightmare, to likely devastation? I understand that. That's why having a voice discipline, and then working with it every day, can be invaluable.

It is true that some directors, casting agents, and producers seek the right person right now and then entrust the actor to do all that is necessary to play the role the way they tell them and to be healthy with it. This is not the way it is for some, though, including me.

I am reminded of this because my artistic rationale for producing TSC's current Taming of the Shrew became something slightly different only once our auditions had concluded last year. A number of actors came in who, because of allowance for breath, were completely present, eager for change, embracing of possibility, and open emotionally. They have continued that work in rehearsal. And this has allowed the political and social importance of the play to shift for me, a shift that as a result has emerged as slightly more dangerous and with more valuable stakes in performance.

My admiration for all noble, breathing actors everywhere...

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Guest Blogger: Dan McCleary Dan McCleary is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the Mid-South’s professional, classical theatre and education organization based in Memphis.  Dan has made a living as a classical stage actor, Shakespeare master teacher, producer, artist-manager, and stage director around the country for 25 years. Memphis Magazine named him among the “Who’s Who in Memphis” each year from 2009-12, and the Germantown Arts Alliance honored him with its 2009 Distinguished Arts and Humanities Medal for Performing Arts.  Dan is a published poet, and he holds a B.A. in Advertising and Journalism from Temple University.  Dan is the proud father of three-year-old twin boys, Sullivan and Collins.

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