Reflecting on Teaching for Almost Half a Century

(You read that correctly - I’ve taught for over 48 years of my life) 

When I started teaching and coaching things were a lot different than today. Everything changed when social media became the main source of “word of mouth” to promote acting coaches and acting schools. 48 years ago, acting coaches did not advertise, research and deploy Google trigger words. They did not speak of empowerment, branding, booking, or spiritual awakenings. We grew with our students with /by the word of mouth of our students.  

We spoke about the craft, dedication, integrity, and the search for truth from within. We helped to instill in actors the desire to get better and grow as artists, not how to hustle Casting Directors for a job.  

When did acting become a military operation of own it, kill it, nail it, command the space, etc.?  What happened to sharing and the revelation of self through the words the writer gave you to speak? 

We did not feel the need to encourage our students to call themselves “creatives” or “storytellers.”  These buzzwords only feed our egos (students and coaches alike). This doesn’t teach humility or how to strengthen our capacity for empathy.  It creates a false sense of uniqueness. It separates us from our collective purpose as human beings to bring the text alive by sharing all that we are at that moment in time. 

48 years ago, coaches and teachers encouraged you to observe and engage with life, to ask contemplative life questions not “what does casting want” or “how do I stand out?” We didn’t want to brand you like a cow or distract you from the pursuit of a shared truth by encouraging you to make bold and interesting choices.  Really there is nothing more tedious than someone trying to stand out or be interesting! It is the human choice that is fascinating not a fetish to stand out from the crowd.  

In Greek mythology Narcissus became obsessed with his own reflection after being led there by the God Nemesis as a punishment for his insensitivity to the love of the nymph Echo.  At the stream, he fell in love with himself and fell in and drowned. If not used in moderation or without comprehension, the selfie shots of one’s self in a mirror (that it is a reflection, it is not you) will lead to the drowning of the soul. It is an electronic manifestation of you! This is not you! 

I fear the net effect of all of this electronic manipulation has created a gordian knot of self-doubt. Ironically, or perhaps tragically, this precipitated the need in young actors to seek empowerment and feel the drug of military talk. I believe it was Machiavelli who said, “take away a people’s Gods and they can be conquered.” The true belief in self grows out of doing and practice, not seeking salvation in the blessings of others.  

The truth is that no weekend workshop or 6-week course will give you the secrets to the kingdom. Hard work, courage, will, perseverance, and a healthy dose of luck will, over time, enable you to fashion your own keys and help you create your own kingdom. 

The most successful actors who have trained with me or at my studio achieved real success after 7 or 8 years in the business. They never gave up hope and never stopped training. The prize was to get better and the joy of creation not the desire to impress. 

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