The Importance of Flexibility for Actors

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An actor has to be flexible. Casts change, scripts change, directors change, and you need to be ready to adapt. There are extreme, almost unthinkable changes in the worldlike the recent pandemic. This stunning change we’ve just experiencedand are still transitioning throughrequired incredible adaptability. But big or small, there will always be change. In life and art, nothing remains the same.

An actor may have a castmate or a director change on a project. It may be a colleague the actor is attached to and comfortable working with, but if the actor can’t adapt to the change, it will make it impossible for them to do their best work or possibly even stay on a production. The possibility of working with new colleagues and learning new things from them will be lost.

There have been stories about actors who have walked off of sets or productions when a friend of theirs was replaced, and while loyalty is admirable, an enduring career requires professionalism in keeping commitments. This all requires adaptability when things change. If as actors we see every new relationship and circumstance as a fresh opportunity to grow, we keep stretching and growing.

There are other well-known instances where actors get stuck in what is familiar or comfortable and become less flexible. Maybe the script has cuts or additions and we get stuck in holding on to what we first read. This can block our opportunity to see the role in a fresh way and develop it to its full potential. Maybe we get stuck in what’s familiar. For those who were able to make the switch from in-person to online acting class and self-taping, their careers kept moving forward. But for those who resisted necessary innovation, both time and opportunities were lost.

Other examples can apply to series actors on TV shows where every week features a new director. This can be experienced as an opportunity to pick up new things that may improve a performance and develop a character, or it can be seen as an intrusion to a routine way of doing a role. But staying open and adaptable can keep actors from getting into a rut or being mechanical in a canned performance they have been doing over a long period of time.

The same applies to those who are in a school or acting classes where the technique is profound and every teacher is part of a greater institution. Getting overly attached to a single teacher or a group of people in a class may not help the developing student stay open and flexible to working with a new teacher and with a different group of people in a new class.

We know that when people are more frightened, they become more controlling, rigid, and less flexible. But an artist especially, more than most people, needs to keep their inner child alive and be malleable and vulnerable, ever-ready to play. Change may seem like an insurmountable challenge sometimes, but if an artist embraces it, they have the power to rise.

So stay young, stay adaptable, stay flexible, and you will never grow old as an artist!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Joanne Baron
Joanne Baron is an actor, producer, and the artistic director of the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio in Santa Monica, Calif.
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