Thinking about Actors

In about a half hour, I start my day of teaching at the Willow Creek Arts Conference in Chicago.  As I prepared for my classes, two of which center on actors and directing, I was reminded of something that has been easy to lose sight of over the past couple of years:  I love actors.  I love watching actors work.  I love interacting with them, creating safe places for them to work and discover and fail and get back up and try again.  There is something so brave and inspiring about watching men and women reach into themselves and try to find what I think of as a divine spark that can allow them to access imaginative material provided by a writer, and somehow marry it to who they are in a compelling and believable way.  The whole enterprise is fraught with danger, and more folks fail at it than not.  When I tell people both my children are actors, they often look at me with a bit of dismay, thinking they are going to join me in my assumed dismay.  But I’m proud of my kids, thankful that they have gifts like these, and that they have the courage to pursue them.  It’ll be easy to lose their way, there will days when it will make no sense to them at all, the money will be hard, the rejection harder, but if they persevere, there will be tremendous reward in both human and spiritual terms.

I don’t have time to go very far into it, but actors are playing instruments that are so delicate, so fragile, so impacted by sudden changes of thought and impulse.  When things are going well, it’s amazing what clarity of mind and spirit can rush onto an actor’s face, so that a watchful audience can see them more clearly than perhaps their own family.  Why performance can do this, and how, is a bit beyond me.  But I’ve seen it far too many times…

So I’m thinking, this is a clue.   A reminder of my love for words, for actors, and for moments of decision when characters take chances most of us only dream of.

Perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub…

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