Theater Info for the Washington DC region

An Actor’s Success

By • Oct 17th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Olivier told us that an actor must “hold the universe in the palm of his hand.” In other words, I like to think, he was advising those of us to recreate the stories, personalities, worlds and actions of anything an everything with which we are presented. Not to ape it, or to present a cheap replica of it, but to recreate it. All of everything should be available from deep within the actor. Waiting within his soul to be called upon so as to present to the audience, whomever they may be, a specific part of the universe for the evening.

There are many ways to determine the success of an actor. There is the amount of money, their fame, how much they are in demand, whether or not they perform certain scripts, how easy they are to get along with. A million more. In the end, however, I doubt there can be a better, more appropriate, more powerful metric by which to determine the success of one who acts than this ability to hold the universe in the palm of their hand. After all, what good is the fame, or the money to the rest of the world if every time you walk out on stage all anybody can think is, “Look! There’s John FamousPerson!”

If an audience comes to a performance and doesn’t think about who you really are, at least for a few hours, that is acting. If how you make an audience feel overpowers their impression of your technique, or your training, or your résumé, that is acting. If someone who pays to see the production is able to recognize in your performance some aspect of themselves, (aspects they either love or hate), and is made to feel as if they know who you are portraying, that is acting. If they can’t wait for you to come back on stage when you exit, that is acting.

Some are certainly born with the gift to perform on stage, or on screen. But that gift is of little use to anyone if they don’t wish to explore it. To practice it. To dig deep into it and find out what is there. To challenge it and to see it from a distance. If even a gifted actor is unconcerned with exploring that universe that has been placed in his hand, he isn’t much of an actor. Great acting, therefore, is more about commitment and dedication to the craft and to the individual role than about anything else. An actor with those two qualities will succeed. They will matter on stage far more than the lazy gifted actor will.

These great actors can be found in both Broadway and your Main Street playhouse. They appear at the Kennedy Center, and they also appear in your local high school’s senior production. Some make a living doing it. Most don’t and even more don’t get paid at all for doing it. Not in money. But when they open both their heart to the possibilities, and the palm of their hand to reveal the universe, they give an audience what it most needs; they give it truth. This is the ultimate advice for every actor that I would impart if I had but a short time to impart it. Decide first and foremost to be true. The greatness will follow.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

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