Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Collaborative Theater - PART TWO: The Actor's Manifesto

       Undoubtedly, Theater is an Art. And in that, Acting is an Art. It involves both a skilled intellect and a willingness to open one's self to a viscerally vulnerable place. And because an Actor's work demands such great personal sensitivity, it demands a certain level of respect from all co-workers, making them an equal among the creative playing field. I have, however, witnessed others take advantage of Actors due to a perceived notion that they are both desperate and disposable.

       Those people – those ideas – frustrate me. Yet venting this frustration is only blowing hot air in a humid cavern. So instead of allowing the belittling nature of another to propagate to a point of the recipient's need to vent frustration, we all simply need not let our status lower in the face of what we have been told is “authority.”* The murk of the cavern floor is littered with matches, so make a spark.

Just to let you know, having worked at both an agency and in casting, I can assure you that appointments are often given with 24-48 hours notice.  Actors schedules need to be flexible to accommodate audition opportunities.

In an ideal world, it would be great if these things could be arranged with more advanced notice, but that isn't something this industry is able to consistently provide at this time.

       This was part of an email I received from an artistic director when trying to coordinate an audition for a show I happened to have helped workshop into fruition that past summer. It is in response to my request that I be given ample time to schedule and prepare for an audition appointment - something roughly more than 24 hours, seeing as how I am a full-time student, have a full-time job, and was, at the time, in rehearsal for two shows. And as strange as it may sound, I still had ample time to schedule an audition, had this company been willing to reply to an email (or four) so that it could indeed be scheduled.

       I never attended their audition. But the reason we actors are still ambling in the dark is because many people did go to that audition. Those “in charge” - anyone who wrangles sole control over a theater company - have shoved actors into a box at the bottom of their closets, easily accessible for when it comes time for them to flaunt their “artistic genius.” And complacently, we Actors sit here, like a stick in the mud, because they tell us to. Because “actors schedules need to be flexible to accommodate audition opportunities,” as though their show is far superior to one’s own individual artistic credit.

       What we need to be doing is asserting ourselves. Ask questions, and want clarification when when your questions are not answered. Come prepared - research what you can (play / company / playwright / director), rehearse your audition pieces thoroughly, warm up - and be willing to not take an audition when it would require compromising one’s professional life - when it would not allow decent preparation, or hinders one’s quality of life by interfering with work, school, or any other life-sustaining commitment. We, Actors, are Artists. And we should think of ourselves as such. Those offering us “audition opportunities” are no better nor no more important than us; they need us just as we need them. 

       There is no light at the end of this tunnel, because it is not a tunnel we are in. This dark cavern only gets brighter, only gets better, if we make it so. Pick up a match, light a fire, make a change. And though I speak specifically on behalf of the Actor, this should go for any practicing theater artist.

       Because I believe in Collaboration.

* admittedly, frustration can rear its proverbial head in so many ways, one inevitably encounters it interminably. But that is a discussion for another day.

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