Usually, performers are the harshest judges of our own work, far worse than any stage or film critic. But do we need self-criticism in order to be a good performer?
While playing Brenda, the headstrong detective on the hit series The Closer, Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress Kyra Sedgwick discussed the stresses of having played a challenging character for six seasons.
“[Brenda’s] a bundle of contradictions, and she’s dealing with at least ten very intense emotions in every episode…
“The first step to a better audition is to give up character and use yourself.” – Michael Shurtleff
Michael Shurtleff, the famous casting director/theatre producer and author of the seminal book for actors, Audition, is alluding to the fact that authenticity is a vital part of any performance.
But what if the audition process itself brings up many emotions that get in the way of being present for the reading?
“Once you’ve gotten the job, there’s nothing to it. If you’re an actor, you’re an actor. Doing it is not the hard part. The hard part is getting to do it.”
– Morgan Freeman
From playing the Easy Reader on The Electric Company to Red in The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman has had an extremely successful acting career that spans several decades.
But Morgan Freeman didn’t make his off-Broadway acting debut until he was 30 years old. Before that he had worked as a transcript clerk at a community college. It took him years of persistence.
Last week I had the experience of witnessing the intense energy of celebrity first hand. Because of the work I did at the Jazz Foundation of America, I had the privilege of watching Bono up close as he performed for a JFA benefit at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
“When it gets down to it, there’s only ever really one person in the audience, no matter how big the crowd.”
Bono, one of the world’s most iconic performers, describes his relationship to the audience, and perhaps the audience representing our first audience, our families.
“I’m an actor who believes we all have triggers to any stage of emotion. It’s not always easy to find but it’s still there.”
– Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman’s quote alludes to the fact that the actor has to access all of his or her emotions in order to deliver an authentic performance.
Stella Adler said, “growth as an actor and as a human being are synonymous.”
I have always noticed the parallels between my work as a therapist and the work of an actor preparing for a role. We both study human behavior. We both look at underlying character motivations. We both study the expression of emotion. We both strive to get the best performances, either out of ourselves or another. While the destination of the work is different, the journey to get there is often the same.