Iʼm aware that many parents of aspiring young talents read these articles hoping to become better informed about the professions their offsprings are interested in pursuing. This article is for the parents of young people interested in show business as a career.
I understand many of you have severe trepidations when your offspring tells you they wish to take acting classes. For years it has been believed that acting, especially as a profession, was a frivolous waste of time and money. It was thought of as a hobby, or worse, a place where lazy people went to have a good time and required little work or effort. It was also believed that if your child pursued a career in acting that the child was all but guaranteed to be let down or even crushed by the experience. As all good parents we try with all our might to protect our children from the pain that comes from disillusionment and heartbreak, the results of harsh disappointments. Your fears arenʼt without merit. The realities of any profession can open the doors to these distressing experiences.
However, maybe it is fitting to consider some of the benefits derived from studying acting.
The study of acting is a doorway to a wide range of professions within the show business community.
While teaching at the University a parent approach me. Her daughter had enrolled in the theatre program without her knowledge. She refused to waste her good money on an education that the percentages told her would not offer her daughter a career once she graduated. I expressed my sorrow in her decision and asked what major she thought would be a better one for her daughter. She said her child had always shown a love and aptitude for history. She was transferring her daughterʼs major from acting to history. It was at that point I listed more than twenty-five job possibilities open to a graduate from a fine theatre program and asked this mother how many job opportunities were open to someone with a history degree. She could only list three. I added two more to her count.
Itʼs not my intention to minimize a degree in History. Indeed, I am personally fascinated by history and believe a degree in history would be great to have. The point is, I was trying to illustrate that the world of theatre is one that encompasses a variety of job opportunities other than acting. I have many students who have a variety of careers in the business. Everything from Public Relations on Broadway, to Lighting, Set, and Costume Designers, Playwrights and Screen Writers, Agents and Casting Directors, to a Teacher of Handicapped Children, and a myriad of others.
One of my former students, Michael Schreiber, who is currently producing a documentary on the Business of Acting, Stages, and is the dynamic force behind the blog StageSuccess.com, as well as being a spokesperson for Ford, Inc., is a perfect example. He also specializes in training young people in the craft of acting. Michael eloquently enlightens parents who children show an interest in acting with the following message:
I am an acting coach with the aim of helping young creative people and their families, like you. My coaching company, StageSuccess, has the mission to ensure that actors have every opportunity to develop and express their unique talent.
We believe that this is a vitally important mission. Acting is much more than saying lines and doing what the director tells you.
Here is why itʼs important: whatever field your children eventually decide to go into, practicing and studying the craft of story telling and the art of self-expression will serve them.
Developing the confidence to speak up or speak out in front of a group of people will move them into a position of leadership…
Cultivating their creative talents will provoke uniques future contributions to their chosen fields…
The emotional intelligence gained from their sincere practice of any art will mold them into stronger interpersonal communicators, deeper observers of life, and more eager participants in an increasingly global culture…and more.
I believe as parents you are committed to you child’s development. I applaud you for encouraging them in their interest.
Let me elaborate on what Michael has written so brilliantly.
Empathy. Young actors learn to embody many different characters, many vastly different from themselves. To be able to perform these characters realistically, the young actor must find a way they can relate. By relating, the young actor learns to empathize with others and with humanity as a whole.
Working with others. In improvisation actors learn how to give and take. That takes trust. Trusting themselves as well as their acting partners. They learn to trust everyone from the Director, to the light and sound operators, to the prop person who guarantees the actorʼs prop is where it should be and ready to use. And when it is the actors turn to do these jobs, which is often the case at the beginning of a career, that they can be trusted to handle these chores with equal professionalism.
Immediate confirmation or negation. “You are only as good as the amount of work you put into any project.” That adage applies to acting as well as any other profession. In a way, maybe even more so. In performing in front of others the amount and quality of your work is immediately apparent to all. This is an invaluable way to learn the importance of the quality of the preparatory work you do on any project. To always be at your best if you wish to achieve your goals.
Imagination. The constant stimulation of the imagination of the young actor opens all kinds of possibilities. It not only enhances their acting skills but intensifies their willingness to achieve. By imagining themselves achieving all sorts of goals they are automatically bringing those goals closer.
Education. Script Analysis, for example, elevates our reading skills. It allows us to read between and under the lines. Historical plays enlighten us to the sameness and differences between our times and past times. Once an actor puts on the characters clothes and walks in the character shoes he experiences history in a way that no history class can. The same truth can be said for contemporary characters and the plays they inhabit.
In conclusion, I have found, in my many years in this business, that students looking for an easy ride donʼt remain in class long once they discover that learning the craft of acting isnʼt as easy as they may have thought. Those that survive the learning of the craft usually are dedicated enough to pursue a career.
A young person must develop the attributes that enable them to achieve their goals.
What are some of the attributes needed to achieve success as a working actor? I quote the supreme Uta Hagen whose books, “Respect for Acting” and “A Challenge for the Actor” should be on every wannabe actorʼs bookshelves:
“It takes an unshakeable desire to be an actor together with a need to express what one has sensed and felt in concrete terms of the characters with whom one will identify on stage…a responsiveness to sight, sound, touch, taste and smell…a soaring imagination without losing control of reality…of being moved by beauty and ugliness. Plus, an insatiable curiosity about the human condition.”
She goes on to say, “…a sound body, a trained voice, and a fine standard speech.” and expounding on talent she says, “…face the fact that talent is of little use without tenacity and discipline.”
Love, love, love it…
On a personal note: I have frequently acknowledged that I had no choice but to follow my show business goals. I was driven from an early age towards a career in spite of zero support from my family. I fell in love and I have remained true to that love for all these years. My life is rich and rewarding. It is beyond imagining what it would be like to work in a profession that I wasnʼt equally passionate about.
As always I wish everyone the best. Please visit my new school in Las Vegas, CRAFT, at “Dream Vision Studios*. The documentary, “Stages,” staring Brad Garrett and myself, along with a wide range of actors in the many stages of their careers, is now available. For further information check out, “StageSuccess.com”
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