By Master Teacher ~ Diane Christiansen
The career of acting is a tightrope. In order to stay on your toes you have to strike a good balance between cultivating your technique through training and unveiling the fruits of your labor through showcasing. Maintaining this balance means continually pushing beyond your comfort zone. Because acting can be such a masochistic profession, the temptation to get into a comfortable routine is strong. After all, it’s scary to try a new technique when you’ve found a method that works. It’s also scary to audition for the role of a lifetime when rejection is so common in this business. In short, it’s scary to take risks, especially with your career. But you’re an actor aren’t you? Yeah you are! And acting isn’t for the fearful. You’ve got to get on that tightrope and do back flips like there’s no tomorrow! So balance is essential in order to avoid falling flat on your face. Now that we’ve beaten that metaphor into the ground, let’s examine what the unbalanced actor might look like in real life. On the one hand, there is the “seasoned” actor. Perhaps he attended a prestigious drama school, on scholarship, no less. After years in a demanding training program grooming him for greatness and divesting him of his blood, sweat, tears, and likely his pride, he may feel that he has already learned everything he needs to know. The answers he seeks are already locked inside him and he needs only to apply the knowledge he has gained from his prior training to whatever the role at hand. He is self-contained and self-led. Therefore, if he is lost, it is only an indication that he must dig deeper within himself. On the other hand, there is the “novice” actor. Perhaps she decided to pursue acting later in life. After a bland career in the professional world, she yearned to finally follow her passion, her dream deferred. So she began taking acting studio classes at every opportunity in a frantic effort to catch up. Because of her late start, she has continually felt as though she’s behind her counterparts and consequently she’s never felt quite ready to take off the training wheels. She cannot go to an audition without being “coached.” Or worse, she cannot go to an audition at all out of a perpetual fear of not being ready. Believe it or not, both of these actor types are crucially unbalanced. They are both in a rut because neither of them is pushing themselves beyond what is comfortable. But success and complacency do not go together. Actors must balance training and showcasing because doing so keeps us active, continually growing and striving. Training is how we grow in our craft to become better actors, no matter how seasoned we are. Showcasing is how we strive to seize new career opportunities, create valuable relationships with Casting and maybe even happen upon unexpected accolades for our work. One without the other leaves the actor incomplete, lop-sided, off kilter, and off his/her game. In an industry as competitive as this one, we cannot afford to miss opportunities whether due to lack of preparation in training or lack of confidence in showcasing. And so, the actor must maintain balance. To resume our earlier metaphor, we must fearlessly navigate the tightrope that is our acting career, and allow our preparation to meet the opportunity that results in our success.