Training: Develop the You That Works
What would you say to a junior high budding football player, who claimed they were going to be drafted into the NFL without having to train? Yeah, call his parents and let them know there might be a problem with delusion, bordering on Charles Manson Family.
Why is that any different than any other performer? Would a juggler or trampoline artist over there at Cirque du Soleil get anywhere – or maintain their employment even – without training? Constant, daily, intense, planned, training? Duh.
Why are you so different that you can waltz into an audition and nail down the lead in an AMC hour-long drama without having to train for it? Did you get so much training in college and blessed with the god-given talent of Michael Jordan that you just don’t need it? By the way, no one trained harder than Michael Jordan, except for maybe Dennis Rodman – but that’s neither here nor there.
Training as a performer is a different story, because the Olympic marathon runner’s need to train is far more obvious than, say, the actor going out for a potato chip commercial audition. Truth is, we all know someone who scores an awesome part with little or no training at all – but I doubt you could win the LA Marathon without busting your ass and feet for decades. But I don’t care about the last three paragraphs, because I’m more interested in you being convinced you should train constantly.
What does that mean?
Let’s stick with the actor for the time being, because that is the wanna-be profession which is the easiest to slack off when it comes to training. Improving yourself can and must take many forms. Immersing yourself in the world of acting is a form of training and every facet of your being needs training, not just the ability to pretend to be somebody else, in some strange or different situation. The key, I believe is consistency.
“The only excuse for not coming to a class or a performance is death.” – Stella Adler
Training is not an indulgence or social club and it damn sure is not for the uninitiated or talentless. Hardly. In fact, I would argue strongly that training is waaaaaaay more important for the successful actor than the so-so. How could you possibly compete for a spot in the LA Philharmonic if your piano was out of tune? In other words – training is not for the untrained. Hah! Figure that statement out and you won’t have to read the rest of this. But do it anyway.
From Risa Bramon Garcia:
8 reasons why training as actor is imperative.
- You’re an athlete. Work out. Stay in shape. Exercise your actor muscles. Tune your instrument. Do the work every day in some way.
- Challenge yourself. If you’re not challenged as an artist, you’re not engaged. Stir it up. Take risks. Experiment. Get in there. Get dirty. Get activated. Lose yourself in the work.
- Find a community. A place where the work you care about is honored and you’re among like-minded artists. Create relationships with teachers and fellow actors. Find a theater company and do plays. Create your tribe. (And it’s not so bad for your social life either.)
- Keep your mind, body, and soul activated. As an actor, you need to have your entire being stirred, have full access to your humanity, on all levels. You’ll be fully alive. As Elia Kazan said, “A great deal of patience is required, and a rigorous maintenance of your mind and your body.”
- Have something to do. Put something specific, something good, on your schedule. Have a place to go. A purpose. Get out of the house, off the computer, the video game, the TV. Break the routine.
- Combat the demons. Push yourself. Meet your fears and anxieties. All the energy you put into the negative talk can be used for good instead of evil. It will clear your head, fill your heart, and free up the energy you need.
- Create access. If you’re in concert with other actors, teachers, you’ll open doors to connect with the industry. It may not seem obvious right away, but it will unquestionably be productive. Connect craft with your career. The constructive energy you put into fine-tuning yourself will attract the most amazing people to you.
- Be a student. Observe life. Study human behavior, what motivates us, stirs us, and moves us. Exercise that. Work on your craft. Every day. Honor your artistry.
One of the greatest guys I ever met and trained with was Al Ruscio. This guy really knew a lot about acting, but more importantly, he knew what it took to become and STAY a professional actor. It was training. Yes, he made money training actors – but believe me, it wasn’t much money and if you couldn’t pay, he didn’t put up much of a fuss. I think he considered it part of his training and he stressed the part about immersing yourself in the craft and industry of acting. By the way, when was the last time you read a play, just to read it? Not to find a monologue or look cool at The Starbucks, but just to read it? Yeah, I thought so.
Acting is a constant physical, vocal, mental and emotional endeavor that requires preparation in order to operate at peak performance at anytime, anywhere. An actor’s body and mind need to be warmed up in order to deliver their best to the audience, even if it’s some wormy casting assistant who wouldn’t know talent if it jumped up and cinched onto his ballsack. You gotta be ready. You can’t “cram” for an acting career, my friend.
The best actors are those who are willing to invest their time and let themselves be 100 percent consumed by the profession they are pursuing, both physically and emotionally. This sort of dedication can take its toll on relationships – but guess what? Tough shit. Do you want a spouse or squeeze you are going to resent 25 years from now? I don’t. And it’s not fair to them either – if they’re not all in, then drop it like it’s hot, friendo.
I know that sounds tough, but not as tough as dedicating your life to the arts and not making it because your boyfriend is bitching about not getting enough attention. If they do not understand what it takes, then they are not for you. If they actively help you with training every moment of the day and night – then reward them with your ever-loving loving. There, I said it.
It’s hard enough to maintain connections if you’re devoting all your time and energy to your passion. It’s even harder if that passion requires you to shoot on location for months at a time and be on the set for up to 20 hours a day. I lost the greatest woman of all time because I was on the road becoming a well-paid comic – but to this day if you ask me to choose – I choose the comic every time.
What I’m saying is there is an enemy and that enemy is in the mirror. You are your demons. You are the lazy prick who stops you from succeeding. You don’t train. You don’t make it.
OR, you do. Make a decision.