Friday, July 2, 2010

Who do you think you are?

And that, for me, is the most important lesson one needs to learn in theater. That, for me, is the one question an actor needs to answer to become an actor, and to become the actor who can become whomever and whatever he wants to be. For we are whom we think we are – think it and believe it, that’s what it’s all about. You believe and we shall believe you.
Think and believe that you have the courage, wit, talent, an unsullied sense of honor, unbending principles, a strong sense of justice and a ridiculously large protuberance for a nose, and you are Cyrano de Bergerac, we believe. Think and believe that you are being unjustly persecuted, that you are stripped of your right to love and be loved, and you are Serapio, we believe. Think and believe that you have the right to have what you want, no matter what, even if you hurt people along the way, even if you completely destroy those who get in your way, you are Machiavelli’s Callimaco, we believe, whether you are on stage or out in the streets.
Think and believe that there’s nothing you can do, and there’s nothing you can do. Think and believe that you can save the world and we shall get out of your way to give you that chance. Believe that the world can step on you and crush you and destroy you, and the world will do just that.
You may be in the grandest theater production of the decade, or in some obscure amateur stage presentation, it doesn’t matter, that production becomes what you think it is and in it you become what you think you are. Think it’s obscure and that’s what it is, think the world of it, and it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Imagine being able to do the greatest thing you’ve ever done in your life every single time you do anything at all – it’s a great feeling.
Think and believe it’s one of those mere opportunities for some extra money, when we go to your opening night, that’s exactly what we’ll see. You think, therefore you are, and believe it. And that conviction is the spark that lights up the passion inside of you, whatever your dreams and aspirations. And that, for me, is the greatest thing that can be gained from being in the theater – the passion. Not the promise of fame nor fortune, not even the realization of that promise. And whether you spend the rest of your life telling stories onstage or turn your back on that life and move on, that passion will keep burning inside of you. That passion is what will help make you the best English tutor your Korean students ever had; the most sincerely helpful call center agent that client ever communicated with; the most caring nurse that patient ever met.
You will always find satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment, of accomplishment, in whatever you do when you have that passion. And you are passionate because you thought it and believed it. Because if you didn’t, pity you for you are not really alive.
The 6th definition in the dictionary tells us that passion is “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything…” I don’t even think that is enough to describe it. The 10th says, “the state of being acted upon or affected by something external, esp. something alien to one's nature or one's customary behavior…” I don’t even think that’s really accurate – it is not something external, it is really internal, though it is true that it may just really be something that is alien to your customary behavior. Customary is habitual, the usual, the way things have been and are expected to be done. Mediocre. If we all of us succumbed to the customary, the habitual, the MEDIOCRE, then the human race would have ceased to exist long ago. But time and time again, there has always been the one person who thought and believed that he can make fire, and he did; who thought and believed that he can change the world with just a simple round object called a wheel, and he did; and the ultimate act of passion – that One who thought, believed that He can and will save our souls by the dying on the cross, and He did.
So who do you think you are?

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