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Reading Into It

In response to the Letter From the Editor in our List Issue (July 30, 2009):

I think you really hit upon several salient points regarding acting and the acting-career process—and in an easy-to-read, no-nonsense format. I would like to add one of my own insights.

An actor friend of mine broached this subject with me a while back. He said some actors today are not readers. He had asked several actors whether, apart from the scripts or texts they perform with, they read theatrical bios, nonfiction works, novels, etc. Some of them responded no.

I have been a voracious reader of theatrical bios and most specifically of those actors who preceded me—especially Old Hollywood, as some would call it. This has helped me gain perspective and learn from those who went before me, and it has helped me to persevere, especially when I think I am working hard to do all that I can to make it. Oftentimes I have shaken in my boots when I read biographies of, for example, the late Jack Lemmon, or Anthony Quinn, or Sidney Poitier, or Paul Robeson, or Burt Reynolds, or Clint Eastwood, or Jack Nicholson, or Lauren Bacall, or Peter Sellers, or Paul Scofield, just to mention a few whose stories I have read. They, each in their own ways, faced obstacles that I have not had to face—or have chosen not to face.

This brings to mind something Sean Connery spoke of in Andrew Yule's well-written bio of him ["Neither Shaken nor Stirred"]. Ironically, when Connery came to London from Scotland for a bodybuilding competition, then and there, two factors came into play for him in his life. And one was serendipity. As I recall it from the book, either someone close to him told him or he had read in London that they were looking for young, handsome, strapping men to be part of the chorus of "South Pacific." Those attributes he definitely had. And apart from living life to the fullest, he had not acted before. So he took the plunge and was cast in the chorus of "South Pacific," which eventually toured parts of England. After this experience, he got serious about acting and the craft. And he said he presumed most actors were quite learned and had read the classics, new literature, and so on. Well, to his bemusement, he soon learned lots of actors were not readers at all.

Let us actors learn from some of our brethren who have preceded us: Let's be great readers, not only of bios but also of Hollywood history, novels, etc. And let's also realize the important roles synchronicity and luck can play in our artistic lives.

Mark A. Winn
SAG, AFTRA, Equity

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