Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain
I was reading “Seven Life Changing Lessons You Can Learn from Mark Twain” and thought, Hey, IS my life, for pity’s sake.
My weird little theatre life.
I live somewhere between free and paid-for theatre, community theatre with cash or a poor man’s professional theatre, depending on your point of view. And Mark’s words turned out to be hilariously apt to this particularly form of organized chaos.
First Twain quote: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Thank you, Mark. For the pleasure of inhabiting another perspective for a time, actors will risk self-respect and criticism, face sleep deprivation and midnight terrors… just to enjoy living through some terrible things. And the things that actually happen? They feed into the actor’s art and enhance the richness of every character portrayed.
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you nothing; it was here first.” Ah. The actor who walks into auditions wanting a particular role… then argues with the director about their casting choices. Yes. That’s going to go over well; do try that. And then try auditioning again… somewhere else. Of course, he could also be describing life as a director. And, yes, I tell myself to get over it a lot, actually. And I better had, because…
“When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet in his private heart no man much respects himself.” I hate a bad review, but if I don’t leave room for improvement, what do I think I am, perfect? A ridiculous notion. Every really good actor I know doubts themselves, because they’re always reaching for perfection. Conversely when an actor has said (however shyly) they believe they’re good, nothing good has ever come of it.
Mr. Twain even has great advice for the actor and director’s technical processes: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Spot on, sir. Spot on.
And when chaos descends — as it will, without fail, one to ten days before opening night - remember Mark’s words: “When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.” Twain may not have given theatre a thought when writing these, but those words sure do come in handy to a thespian; yes they do.
Mark and Me