Sunday, April 27, 2014

Issues of Quantity and Quality


New York City actors, especially the young and unestablished in the industry, are incredibly busy people. If we're not prepping, cramming, submitting, sending, spending, responding, and following-up; if we're not listening, attending, promoting, respecting, risking, trusting or diving into; if we're not being seen, seeing, catching up on and marathoning; if we're not sweating and stretching and toning, hoo-ing, and ha-ing - then the fear of not doing becomes overwhelming. And our culture of online sharing doesn't exactly help. A few minutes of scrolling through social media feeds and those other actors you went to school with suddenly become giants of the industry, well on their way to the kind of success you gave up on because you decided to take a moment for yourself.

The demands of such a challenging career inside of a highly competitive marketplace can easily be viewed as ample justification for such a stream of constant activity. But is it really effective for the struggling actor who lacks union membership and formal representation? The pressure to constantly do and be involved in, and say "Yes" to can be incredibly high for those actors seeking some form of commercial success but who are operating without regular access to premium auditions. I'm constantly looking to fill my calendar with as much actor activity as I can, but recently I've grown weary of this approach, one that seems to favor quantity over quality. I'm not denying that quantitative "plant a thousand seeds" approach is useful.. That's what I've been doing. Just like every other actor I know.

This need to perform a constant barrage of actions with the intention of making meaningful contributions to our craft and careers can lead to qualitative oversight. And quality matters. Especially when it comes to the work itself. I'm not talking about whether the writing was good, or the directing was bad, or the production level was high. I simply mean that it stokes the fires of passion for the craft. It nurtures the artist self. It "replenishes the well" as Julia Cameron puts it in her book The Artist's Way. It's a great thing to receive, especially when you're feeling less like an artist and more like a commodity.

So how does one help improve the chances of a quality experience? Simply put, we can't. It's not possible (nor is it advisable) for us to judge what the value of some action or experience will be before deciding to perform it or getting involved. If we did that we would never take a risk, never experience the wonder of witnessing a surprising turn of events. All we can really do is go into things with open hearts and positive attitudes, and with better management of our time lead happier, healthier artistic lives.

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