If there is one thing I know for sure, Michigan has an amazing theatre community. The theatre and film people here are friendly, supportive, and receptive. I have worked in other markets, so believe me when I tell you that this community is special. However, here’s some tough love from someone who cares: Michigan Actors, you need training.
You know who you are. Maybe you are the actor who feels too comfortable in his or her abilities. You’ve been in a bunch of shows. You get cast a lot. People compliment you on your work all the time. It’s great right? Except that you are not getting the enjoyment out of doing it that you once did. There’s this feeling somewhere under the surface that’s eating at you. Something like mild boredom or an intangible feeling of dissatisfaction. That’s the artist within you needing to grow, to be fed, to be challenged.
Or maybe you are not getting cast a lot for whatever reason. You want to get better but have no idea where to start. Your auditions are terrifying. Your self-confidence is shot. You know that once you get cast in a show or a movie, you will shine, but you’re not getting those parts and you’re starting to get discouraged.
Or maybe you do get cast, but you are getting frustrated with directors who either give you terrible direction or no direction at all and you just feel that you are not giving your best work because the “direction” is holding you back and you just don’t feel like inviting anyone to see you in your show because you think it’s terrible and you’re terrible because no one is giving you anything to work with and you’re becoming more neurotic every single show because you don’t feel like you’ve been in a “good” show in quite awhile and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Let me tell you something very important that you should know right now: You are NOT a commodity. You are an ARTIST. That’s why they call it the “Performing Arts”. You are creative and have a strong desire to create. One doesn’t simply get on stage and “perform”. There’s a process that the actor must undertake to create a truthful characterization, a TRUTHFUL characterization. The actor desires a feeling of TRUTH on stage. The actor needs that feeling of truth in order to fully realize their creative individuality. If you are not feeling it, then it’s no one’s fault but your own. You. NEED. training….Constantly and forever. True artists never stop trying to improve. They never stop practicing, rehearsing, aspiring.
When I moved back and began talking with my colleagues about my desire to start a studio here, they became immediately excited. “YES!” They would say. “We definitely need something like that here.” And it’s true. My observation is that as great as this community is, there’s a strong underlying feeling that we could be better. Actors feel like they have nowhere to turn to continue their training. Chicago, Atlanta, New York, LA: They have dozens of places for actors to turn to. We have far too few. Even when taking into account our relative size to larger markets, there are simply not enough places for actors to work on their craft separate from the pressures of performance.
As a result, actors here tend to feel that performance is the be all and end all of their work as artists. And while performance is essential, of course, this mentality tends to lend itself to a feeling that the actor is nothing more than a commodity of the theatre or film they happen to be working on at the time. This makes the actor feel disempowered to take control of their own work and that, in turn, creates a feeling of frustration and disappointment in the work itself leading to a cycle of unhappiness for the actor/artist.
Continued training makes for happy artists. This is what I am trying to do for our community. Even if you find that the Michael Chekhov Technique isn’t for you, you will be happier and more satisfied by partaking in some form of continued training than not. This is because you will be working on your craft, not just on some project. You will be entirely focused on your own creativity and growth, something I suspect many of you haven’t had the opportunity to pursue in far too long.