Sabrina’s got a necessary post up today about the startling laziness and ill manners of a certain percentage of our young actors here in Vancouver. Apparently we’ve acquired a reputation for it across the country. Great. So the question becomes: what is the origin of such a poor work ethic? When did it become okay to blow off any appointment, never mind an audition – the brass ring of the acting profession/obsession – without so much as a dog-ate-my-homework text?
A quick twitter query offered some suggestions that it may have something to do with the pervasive emphasis on film/TV work here as potentially more legitimate and/or lucrative work for employment-seeking actors, and that this has lowered their opinion of stage work. It was even suggested that some agencies counsel their charges to steer clear of theatre as a career move. One hopes this bizarro-world scenario is untrue, at the very least. But there is clearly something discouraging about the lack of stage verve in the available young actor stable here. Where is the next generation of theatre-goers coming from if the people invested in the trade themselves are lackadaisical about just showing up for a shot at some work?
I wonder about this a lot. So do other people around here, thankfully. I wish more of us talked about it. Excitement for theatre as a unique arena has to be instilled early, as I was blissfully reminded of in this post on Amanda Palmer‘s blog (h/t Trav, with gratitude. Check out his post on the matter), this is exactly what we’re talking about whenever we talk about where theatre is coming from and going to. I wish that every parent of every histrionic student, every high school drama teacher, every acting coach and every theatre department prof could absorb this post, I can think of no higher career high than this from a former student:
my jaw hit the floor. this was an adult – a teacher – who was treating the teenagers like they were adults. there was no patronizing. there was real art. we were digging into ourselves and finding real things. my heart exploded.
for the first time in my life, i felt art the way i knew it could be, i was watching it happen and i was a part of it. my life was changed.
Seriously, you’ve got to read the full post. You’ll want to take this guy’s class yourself. His enthusiasm for his work and respect for his student’s intelligence resonated so deeply that Amanda was thrilled at the opportunity to come back and make more art with him, and with his current crop of students, who in turn got a huge bump from the success that she brought back with her. You can actually watch the entire product of that reunion here, if you like. Doesn’t look anything like what my high school was doing, I’ll tell you that much. I don’t recall ever being told in my entire scholastic career, not even in passing by a teacher or a counselor, that being a working artist was a career option. Not once. And if I was know for anything back then, it was for being an art nerd. I didn’t even see a play until I was in my twenties. I am left to only imagine where I’d be now if I’d been drenched in enthusiasm that infectious when I was a teenager.
Choosing theatre may never be as cool and romantic and full of potential as it is when you’re in high school. At least offering the choice and doing it with the passion that typifies long-term practitioners seems like a pretty good place to start. And I’m betting these kids show up for work when it’s their turn to jump off.
Photo courtesy of amandapalmer.net