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- Laurence Olivier
The above is by artist Nathan Sawaya from his website www.brickartist.com
My entire college acting program was once asked this question by our main professor:
"What audacity do you have to stand in front of an entire audience of people and ask them to pay $75 a ticket (at the time) to sit and watch you on the stage for 2 1/2 hours?"
Most of the class was taken aback by this question but those of us who knew him well saw this as a challenge. What he was doing was making us question WHY we chose the path we did. For our teacher, Dr. Richard Mason, he wanted us to reach beyond what the "average" person though of when they were asked this question.
Some answers might be; "I do it for the applause." "I do it because it makes me feel good or I can escape..." etc. Well from Dr. Mason's point of view he wanted us to reach beyond ourselves, to stop being the self centered actors, the narcissistic inward looking artist. He was challenging us to look outward.
What was our responsibility? Why were we doing this? And he made us realize one major thing. We were having an effect on people with the work that we were doing. Whether the audiences liked what they saw or not, they would leave that theatre with a new viewpoint. In short, he pushed us to take responsibility for our "art."
That lesson has always stayed with me. There have been many times where I have been exhausted doing a show, 8 times a week, the same thing for months on end, my body and voice thrashed from the continual effort put forth...and then I think. Thank god for it.
I am realizing a dream and the dream of countless other performers who would gladly exchange spots with anyone on the stage. Heck I used to (and still do sometimes) work for free because I love it so much. I am grateful for the chance to be on stage and share something with audiences. Art doesn't exist in a vacuum. If there is no one to view it...it would be pointless beyond the create of the artist who made it. It would sit in their studio for them to see every time they passed by.
So what does all of this mean? In the end I realized that I, at least, need to look beyond myself in my work. Sure...it's work...but what we do as artists reaches many, many people and because of that and Dr. Mason's lesson of so many years ago, I try my best to and encourage others to reach beyond the immediate and be a catalyst with our work.
Does it always succeed? Probably not, in fact I know definitely there have been times when the desired effect has fallen short...but the purpose behind that effort remans the same. We must try, we must reach beyond what we think we can attain and as Olivier says in the quote above: "...teach the human heart the knowledge of itself."