Soul of the American Actor
The following article appeared in The Soul of the American Actor, Sprint 2001, Volume 4, Number 1.
Acting from the Spiritual Perspective
Your Art, Your Business and Your Calling
by Kathryn Bild
Andre Gide said, "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
For years I had been craving the understanding of acting as an art and a craft; but I was too afraid to take a class. Then, having burst from my box of terror, I couldn't wait to get at it. Not that I was no longer afraid; I was. But I was no longer allowing my fears to rule me. I started reading everything on acting that I could get my hands on Constantin Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagan, Stella Adler, Lorrie Hull, Sandy Meisner, Bobby Lewisand for the next three years I studied intensively with Stella Adler, Lorrie Hull, Frank London, Ed DeLeo, and others. The more I read and trained and performed, the more I was intrigued by the beautiful mystique of acting. Acting, which I had so loved as a child, I found now spoke to me as one of the more compassionate and consciousness-raising of the arts. And it was through the art of acting, more than through any other, that I discovered that one learns, grows, becomes, is, and then gives as an artist. I further discovered that, while acting would not become my main area of artistic practice, it would remain literally pivotal in my life as the artist and teacher that I was becoming.
Like all right livelihood, acting affords the worker whose work acting is many valuable opportunities to develop and express his abilities. It requires great intelligence to be a good actor, and great compassion. And by trafficking in this human mental make-up on a daily basis as your work, you, the actor, gain this understanding that eventually makes you a great actor. It requires lots of courage to be a performer, to get up there and lift up your shirt and say, "Here I am. This is what I've got," and to trust, not only that it is enough, but that it is worthy of honor and respect. And it is by dealing in these elements on a daily basis, in your spiritual career workshop called "acting," that you develop your spiritual musculature.
You are embarking upon a very important work, a holy work, when you embark upon the career of acting; for the merchandise of your dealing is Truth.
Of all the human qualities, "the greatest of these," as St. Paul said, "is love." Love. Not only is love the greatest characteristic of an individual in life, as well as his highest emotion choice, it is the greatest asset the actor has at his disposal in drama. Love is the highest, smartest choice of how to relate and interact at all times, on and off the stage, because love keeps everything working together so that life continues to perpetuate itself in order to continue to exist.
How does this great asset, love, serve in our acting? On and off stage, only love has the power to open our eyes enough to let us see clearly.
The moment I open up and decide to love, all of a sudden I am relieved of the agitating mental darkness, my vision clears, and I am able to see just what is really going on and what to do about it. And when I'm willing to perform in a way that is of service, on or off stage, opportunities and ideas occur to me. Actually, they have always been there; but only when I love do I see them, which includes the best way to play a part once I get it. For it is the quality of mind that we call "love" that puts us in our highest state of receptivity.
We progress. Everyday everything progresses. "Precept upon precept. Line upon line. Line upon line. Here a little, there a little." We can trust that our progress, too, is certain; our success is assured.
It may sometimes look like we're standing still or even going backwards. But life is not static and it doesn't go backwards. If it seems like we're going backwards, that means that we weren't really as far ahead as we thought we were. "I'm slipping backwards!" No, you're not, you just weren't on solid ground before, and you're now waking up to that factwhich is progress.
Some people say "Luck is the residue of effort;" others say, "Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity." But that's not what we mean when we wish someone, "Good luck!" or say, "Boy, is she lucky!" The residue of effort pertains more to the law that "you reap what you sow;" and "preparedness meets opportunity'' describes the process of progress. It is wonderful that opportunities do come and it's very cool to be "ready" for them when they do, but here we're talking about the reward of hard work, not luck. Somebody on a "lucky streak" refers to a person who was the recipient of things that were not the residue of his effort.
Opportunities are like oranges. They do grow on trees. They are everywhere around you, blossoming into fruit. You will never have to hope that an opportunity will come, because they never fail to exist; nor do they exist outside of yourself. You are in the wonderful, beneficent position of being provided withand, in fact, in possession ofmore opportunities than you will ever be able to use. It is your choice, up to you, at your own time in your own way, to choose the ones which seem most attractive to you. And you can trust that you will be inspired to choose the ones that will most promote your growth.
Like fruit on a tree, the more you pick, the greater the crop the next season but you can't use them all, can you? Nor need you. Some opportunities will fall on the ground. Let them. That's all right. Don't despair. The ones that are right for you, you will be led to select, even if it takes you what seems like a long while to get ready to do so. In fact, they only become truly functional opportunities when they are selected and used. So you can't really blow opportunities, can you? No. And the ones that fall on the ground will seed the ground and create more opportunities in the future.
Eventually, you will feel brave enough to pick one up, or even pluck one from a tree. Or, if you at least stay on the field, one may just land on your head. Something will tell you an opportunity is for you and encourage you to accept it. Do so. Trust that the opportunities that come, come because they are right for you.
Remember that acting is a calling. Remind yourself that it is an important work that you are undertaking every time you pick up a piece of text and explore its meaning. Deepen that commitment. Realize that the work is grand and commit to staying with it as your mission.
That really is the whole point of this idea of deepening your commitment, as an art, a business and a callingthe daily reinforcing of your dedication to staying with it. It is your callingthe way that you sing, write, paint, dance, act! Honor life by expressing its beauty, truth and love. That is how you do your job as an artist, that is how you keep our planet healthy because that is how you have a happy life, and, at the same time, inspire others to do the same. So lighten up. Life is amazingly spectacular. And if we have a responsibility in all this, and we doand it is a grave oneit is to never allow anyone to deflect us from that wonderful, and noble purpose of being fabulous! 2001
Excerpts from Acting from a Spiritual Perspective: Your Art, Your Business, and Your Calling by Kathryn Bild. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
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