book talk #3 The Neighborhood Playhouse

There is that lovely and yet forlorn feeling of returning to your old school where your earliest epiphanies and your deepest sorrows took place and stained the woodwork with your toil.

I love this building and I love the school. I love that I can walk into a classroom and see that only the furniture has changed. I can look at the young face that is sitting in "my" seat and smile with recognition and I can listen to young students discuss their thoughts on the world of acting with complete understanding.

The room was well aware that a grad was coming in and they were welcoming along with their minor apprehension as again, I learned that previous talks with industry professionals left them overwhelmed and a bit deflated.

I am just worn out by the idea that every professional's job in the name of good counsel is to "toughen up" the young artist for the "real world" of acting. Gosh, it's like they've never heard of the internet and think that the average student is sheltered from the prospect of it being less than courteous in the biz.  Trying to derail someone's life dream to speed up the inevitable disappointing outcome of a career isn't really helping is it? I don't know an agent who doesn't have a story of passing on a young unknown who became a superstar. They didn't see the talent, but someone else did. Thank god for perseverance.

My friend Aarne came with me again. We graduated together 20+ years ago.  Aarne is a Broadway stage hand and has been for 35 years. He says he can tell you in 20 minutes upon meeting them if a new member of his cast will be a diva or easy to work with after the 2 week honeymoon.  20 minutes. After 35 years of watching newbies show up, and having trained with Mr. Meisner, and put his own time in as an actor, he can damn near tell by the way they walk across the stage in their street clothes before the show, if they will "become" a nightmare in the next 14 ish days.  Wild eh? We just carry it with us.

That doesn't mean we can't unlearn bad habits or learn good lessons that teach us better habits. Aarne's advice to new actors who want to win the crew over (which they SHOULD ABSOLUTELY DO) is… go to any crew member and offer to bring them coffee. You the actor, offer to bring this new stranger who works with you, coffee. A week later they will offer you the same. Aarne says that this then secures that the crew is now setting Markus' props and hitting Markus' cues. Which is not the same as them setting "guy who is playing Tony's" props. Interesting advice, eh?

The talk went well and for all their bravado of being in the big city and studying at the center of the universe they have all the same ideas, good and bad, as students who aren't so close to the action. In fact you might even be able to say it's scarier to admit you're not fully prepared if you're studying in a school in the heart of the Big city. That's one of the reasons you go to NYC to study, to be "in it." You certainly get a wider education having to deal with NYC and class, but in the end what you don't know about the future seems to feel the same.

This was my 3rd talk with classes at The Playhouse and every time by the end the camaraderie is right there and the appreciation is palpable. Richard Pinter and Hal Baldredge are both so gracious in giving me time to talk. I think it's safe to say that I really do know exactly how the students feel in this room about the day after their final show at The Playhouse.  I hope my talk gave them some tools for the next chapter.

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