I have always used a couple of rules that apply to succeeding as a working actor.
1. KISS which is "Keep It Simple Stupid"
2. Try to find one or just a few really crazy and committed partners. Human nature is complicated and the larger the group, the larger the complications. That said, if "IT" fits, it fits. If you like the people you are working with, then go for it. But some people are in this business for the wrong reasons, usually Ego and the seeking of fame. The ones you want to work with are the ones who are in it for the "battle" of the work, the daily work and grind and honing the skills, developing the awareness, the give and take, and NOT in it for the candy of the applause and photo ops and fan mail.
3. Try to always be a giver, giving more than you get. Don't be needy. People don't like to hang with needy people.
4. Hang onto your center. don't be pushed and pulled all over the place by others. Know who YOU are and BE WHO YOU ARE. Don't try to be the ALL for everyone or to try to PLEASE everyone.
5. Having a goal of playing on S 'n L is fine but be careful to not get stars in your eyes.
6. Dont' try to be the best. Strive to be the ONLY YOU.
7. If you can write YOUR OWN stuff, you can make a living.
8. Be prepared to make your living in schools, performing for kids, as well as in theaters and in film and on TV. There is no shame in performing for kids and family audiences, in fact it is some of the best stuff I have ever done.
9. Help as many people as possible get what they want and then you can have a great deal of what you want.
10. Be forever working on yourself, your mind (read), your body (work out for balance and strength and agility), your skill sets (better to not be a "One Trick Pony"; learn the banjo, the ukulele, to juggle, to ride a unicycle, the trumpet, to do mime, create illusions, to do some magic really well etc.)
11. Remember, if it isn't fun for you, you probably shouldn't be doing it.
have fun and keep on dancing! :O)
Uncle Stevie (Stephen)
Responses to Stephen's thoughts.
Tom Waites, one of the top acting teachers in NY, sent me this in response to my recent comments about making it as an actor.
What you say, Stephen, is all pretty accurate though I would say make as many friends as possible. And it's not true that if you can write you can make a living. If you can write, great. Try it also. I would only add that one needs to be obsessed. That is from the moment one wakes till sleep, acting is everything.
Also, live to live. And love life. That's what's important. Motivation can be superficial at the outset. But motivation changes constantly. Deepens as we progress.
Finally, take making a living out of the equation. Just act cause you love it and need to learn about it. As much as possible, make friends.
What I mean by write is actually “write and produce and perform what you write”; which means that you have to do a Gould&Stearns where we wrote it, produced it, promoted it, sold it, toured it, changed it, developed it
Something that has been made very apparent in both my acting classes and just life in the city is the saying "Go before you're ready." A saying that my teacher Jeff Ginsberg has given to me.
Jonny Flood (teaching theater on St John for NEYT)
I absolutely agree, I think this is all fantastic advice. I also never shy from telling kids that when starting out, most good acting will make you feel foolish and uncomfortable, and it's in pushing through those self-built walls and expectations that true comfort as a performer will come and your performances will begin to really blossom.
Brian Delate ( actor/filmmaker/veteran, Creator of the play Memorial Day, (when remembering makes you want to forget...
and being forgotten makes you want to die...) AND ~ Soldier's Heart, a movie about a veteran's midlife awakening)
I am with you all the way. I would echo what you have in #2 and say that creating or participating in communities is vital. Remember that you can create your own community 2 or more people, preferably more. Aligning myself or finding a way to participate in a theatre that has what you want. And remembering that there is the larger community of theatre and film and it is world-wide.
Two other things -- have a spiritual grounding of some kind. And lastly, learn to listen and listen to learn. and then there is this quote --
The Great things in life are what they seem to be; and for that reason, strange as it may sound to you are often very difficult to interpret. Great passions are for the great of soul and great events can only be seen by those who are on a level with them. We think we can have our visions for nothing, we cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing visions have to be paid for. Strangely enough that is what makes them fine." ~ Oscar Wilde
Dear NEYT Students and Alumni: (response from Stephen to more feedback)
I am happy that my 11 tips on how to succeed as an actor have reached so many of you at a time when they were helpful to lift your spirits. I have just returned from NYC last weekend meeting with some of your past friends: Sean Fitzharris, Taylor Patno, Kario Periera Bailey and my student from 1972, Tom Waites who went to Julliard and now coaches actors and directs in NY. I also had a good time speaking with another actress I know in NY. Her name is Sarah and she graduated from Seymour Hoffman’s Atlantic Acting School in NY where Emily Seymour is currently training.
All of these forlks spoke about “just pushing on, patience, perseverance, keeping spirits and attitude up.” The mythical “break” may be around the corner or in the far distant future; one important factor is the question, “is this theatre thing, this acting thing, just a fad for me or do I really “need” a life in the theatre? a life creating living and moving art; do I love the work? the training? the building of my skills. If the answer is, not so much, I just love the performing for an audience, the applause, then probably the dream will lose its luster and fade away. They all still love it. Kario auditions at least six times a week and Sean has written a new TV pilot which he submits this week. Rosa is at ACT San Francisco and doing great there. She wonders why most if not all “casting directors” cast out of New York. Why not cast out of Vermont? Well, our Alumni are now and gradually becoming a force to be reckoned with, and if some or many of you locate in Vermont, then there will, gradually, be all the talent a casting director could ever need, right here in Vermont. You all are a rowdy bunch with tons of personal initiative and so “look out world”, there ain’t nothing gonna keep you out of the “golden city of theater” ha ha!!
With regard to my “acting success tip #6:” it reads: 6. Don’t try to be the BEST. Strive to be the ONLY you.
errrrrr welllll, yes, I guess the “YOU” is understood. You want to work hard on your skills and philosophy to become the BEST YOU
the key in my statement is very simply boiled down to …. don’t try to be the BEST (IE in the world at this or that or at acting) but work to be the ONLY (ie to be “ORIGINAL”, the unique “YOU”. ) I thought it would be understood that a person is, of course, going to work to be the “Best” them they can be. The key difference here is between “Best” and “Original / Unique”. BEST in Olympic terms means nothing less than GOLD MEDAL is worth anything. “ONLY” / “UNIQUE”, means building toward what YOU can share with the world, with others; how you can make a difference in people’s lives by sharing your unique self and your unique take on art/ which is the communication of ideas via a medium, which in our case is via acting, live moving sculptural, physical movement and voice actions to TELL A STORY! So be the BEST storyteller YOU can be AND don’t worry about having to tell your story on the BROADWAY stage or in an OSCAR winning film. Tell it on a street corner, and if you gather a crowd and you hold them in rapt attention and they have tears in their eyes, then you have MADE IT; you ARE THE ORIGINAL YOU and you are the ONLY you. And that is what I am trying to communicate here. Delighting and moving a group of first graders or a group of teens in a high school gym is and can be very important work and very fulfilling.