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The Working Actor

Why Actors Have Gotta Have Faith

Why Actors Have Gotta Have Faith
Photo Source: Clay Rodery

This week we begin the second step of the “Actors Anonymous” program. Last month we learned to claim our acting addiction, admitting we have a problem. This month is all about our higher power. Now, easy with the pitchforks. I’m not here to push a religious view; I’m talking about faith. That’s a nice, safe word I think we can all agree on.

The unfortunate truth for us nutbag actors is that in order to manage our addiction we must have faith. Only with faith can we repeatedly strip naked in front of strangers—figuratively and sometimes literally—invite their judgment, and still make it out alive. Only when our exhausted effort locks hands with faith can we continue to stand in long lines to sing 16 bars, step back onto our stages after bad reviews, and continue clocking in at our loathsome survival jobs. Each of us, however we come to it, must invest in this side of our acting soul. If we want to stay healthy in our addiction, we can’t always be going it alone. We need to cultivate the voice inside pushing us to stay the course, quieting the ever-present one telling us we suck and should quit. It will not only protect us from feeling the daily blows to our self-esteem, it will enrich our creativity and performances.

Faith is twofold in this way: It’s for us and through us for others. This leads me to the other element of faith: “divine inspiration,” a common belief until the emphasis on the human individual during the Renaissance. I’m not mandating that you fully buy into the notion, but there’s no harm in getting quiet long enough to see what happens. In one of my favorite TED Talks, advocating a belief in divine inspiration, author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) said, “It makes about as much sense as anything I have ever heard in terms of explaining the utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process.” I say, “Hell, if it worked for Homer, why not?”

I believe in God. I’ve had moments in performance when my openness to the divine allowed for a depth of storytelling I know I could never reach on my own. I’ve also had (and continue to have) major blows to my career and self-worth when God was the only safe place to run to. My faith in these moments continues to teach me that no matter the outcome of a given day, I was supposed to try. The journey is the goal.

You must possess both resiliency and power to press on down this chosen path. Faith acts as the shield and the sword to battle it out in a profession that presents as many external opponents as inner ones. It will help sustain you through an addiction of the lowest valleys and, if you let it, soar you to unimaginable heights.... Because after all, we’re just addicts looking for the next high, right?

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