Your Purpose is to Shine . . .
The following article appeared in the Dec. 9, 2002 issue of Christian Science Sentinel.
'Your purpose is to shine . . .'
A conversation with Kathryn Bild New York author, director, and acting coach
By Kim Shippey, Sentinel staff
But if you think you're in a seminary class, you're wrong. You're in an acting class at the New York Film Academy with Kathryn Bild, who's not finished yet. "Remember that your purpose is to shine so that by your brilliance you contribute to the glory of life. Your art is the service you offer by which you make that contribution."
If you're not an aspiring actor, then in another class you might be brushing up on your public speaking with Kathryn-and, just as resolutely, she'll make sure you get her message: "Remember that you're touching people's lives, influencing the way they think and feel about themselves and how they make their decisions. And that's going to impact the world. So take that honor and responsibility seriously, and give them the best that you have."
Kathryn teaches the Stanislavsky and Strasberg approaches to acting, privately and at the Film Academy. But her personal skills and experience range far more widely. She was a Grammy Award winner as Video Producer of the Year for her creation and production of comedy sketches under the title Elephant Parts. She has directed and produced dozens of television commercials and short films; written novels, screenplays, and songs, as well as columns for newspapers and magazines; and a few weeks ago published a book titled Acting from a Spiritual Perspective.
Kathryn plays down the importance of her Grammy, suggesting that, while such awards are welcome nods of approval from the profession, they can easily be wrongly valued.
"They tempt you to look for your approval or your sense of excellence outside of yourself," she says. "But true artists know better. They know they get permission to be artists, as well as a reliable analysis of their work, only from themselves. If their performances don't ring true within them, it's not possible for them to ring true with anyone else. In my case-and I believe this is true with many of us-what I want most is God's approval," explains Kathryn. "After all, He's the creator. It's His work I'm doing.
"The Bible says, 'God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good' (Gen. 1:31). To me that means that God causes me to write-or act, direct, or do anything else-well, and then causes others to see that I have done so. It is always God doing the work, and God beholding the work well done. That's the standard for me whenever I write or direct something. That completes the circle of effort and compensation that leads to the artist's satisfaction-and nothing short of that does."
Kathryn hastens to add that even when awards come an artist's way, there's no letting up for him or her-not even when the artist begins to teach. "In any of the arts, every teacher has got to have an active form of artistic expression. You've got to be able to practice what you preach, because that's what keeps you in the loop. It also keeps you humble-just one of the kids in the kingdom. Keeps you from thinking that you know something others don't. Because that's not what teaching-or the arts-is about. In my work, I've found that teaching is mostly sparking what your students already know."
Kathryn is often asked whether her overt references to her spiritual beliefs might put off some students-or even potential buyers of her book.
"On the contrary," she says, "many of them have told me that their interest was piqued by my readiness to get to the core of the matter. I'm just trying to persuade people to allow themselves to reach their maximum-to fulfill their God-given potential. People don't look at the way I teach as denominational, but universal and accessible to everyone-wherever they are in their spiritual journey.
"I think of what Mary Baker Eddy said about the 'millions of unprejudiced minds' out there. There are certainly plenty of them here in New York. She spoke of these 'simple seekers for Truth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert . . . waiting and watching for rest and drink.' She suggested we 'give them a cup of cold water in Christ's name, and never fear the consequences' (Science and Health, p. 570).
"That's what I'm trying to do. I talk with the seekers who come my way in terms I think they'll easily grasp, like, 'Your purpose is to express all the magnificence that life is. You get to contribute to the "fabulosity" of life, simply by being great yourself.' And nobody ever says to me, 'I don't think that's right for me,' or, 'I don't want to do that,' or, 'That seems too much.' Instead, I see their eyes light up, because here's somebody confirming for them that what they want to be true is true."
Kathryn and I discussed whether this approach might at times border on the simplistic, and risk disappointment for less experienced, even naive, young people entering show business. Isn't there a danger of building hopes too high in a profession notorious for the scarcity of jobs and dubious hiring practices?
"How could that possibly be?" asks Kathryn. "The truth is the truth, everywhere. And where better to accept and apply truth as the standard than in the influential area of the arts.
"It all comes down to the artist's integrity-to his or her honest take on reality," she continues. "Artists learn that they can trust their instincts, their inner desires, if they are honest about what they really want. I remember having an ice cream cone one day and thinking to myself afterward, 'I'm still hungry. I want another one.' And I said, 'All right, Kathryn, if you really want it, you can have it. But let's be sure that that's true.' Then I asked myself, 'What do you really want?' And suddenly I realized that what I really wanted was to go home, get out my art supplies, and paint something. I wanted that feeling of childlike, truly satisfying creativity, and I was misinterpreting it as another ice cream cone.
"I have found that if we are true to our true desires, they will not lead us wrong-because our true instincts and desires come from God. I believe that the life God gives us is good, and that each step of the way we are lovingly supported by Him.
"I also remind my acting and directing students that drama has been a part of society since the earliest days, and can be viewed as a deeply satisfying expression of service to the community in which they live. When you see it this way, you quickly become absorbed in your work, which has the added advantage of taking away stage fright. You don't have time to be upset or worried or scared. You are a woman or man at work.
"This brings us back to public speaking. I've found that successful speakers prepare for a presentation like an actor prepares for a part. Taking the job seriously, they work with the material until they've made it their own. They don't just get up there and try to remember things and hope they say something intelligent before they embarrass themselves. They've digested their material, they understand it, they believe it, they mean it, and they say it the way they mean it. This allows them to connect instantly with their audience-with confidence.
"In their writing and speaking, I encourage people to use the stories and anecdotes that affected them, taught them something, even moved them. Then their audiences will be moved as well. To make eye contact with them. But, above all, to love them-love really communicating with them."
What does Kathryn, an experienced producer and director, tell her students about accepting parts in violent or raunchy movies? Isn't it hard to take a stand when you're desperate for a job?
"Yes, sometimes it is. That's the challenge we face when we temporarily forget that God is running the show. It gets back to the individual being true to himself or herself. As artists, it is not our responsibility to fix people, situations, or the world, even though we want the world to benefit from our work.
"There's nothing wrong with dealing with violence if we deal with it honestly, authentically. The problem comes when the so-called artist aggrandizes or emphasizes violence, or anything else, in order, not to serve others, but to sell tickets.
"The function-the result, really-of the artist's work in society is to enlighten, inspire, and encourage. And, of course, we want to entertain. But the way we do that authentically is by working with and resolving the issues that are issues for us individually.
"No matter what our profession is," concludes Kathryn, "or how we classify ourselves, I believe that the true mission of every one of us is to fulfill our fabulous potential by witnessing to and expressing the truth that life is good. Doing that has the marvelous effect of blessing others with healing insights."
Acting . . . From a spiritual perspective
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