My advice for actors? I’d say the No. 1 thing is to focus on being interested versus interesting. We spend a lot of time as actors focusing (dare I say obsessing?) on ourselves. Honing our craft through class, choosing the right clothes for the audition, going to the gym to keep our bodies in shape—all useful things. Now I want to say: Stop it. Get outside of yourself. It will actually make you a more fulfilled human being, in addition to a more inspired artist. Here are some ways to get started.
Cultivate a sense of inquisitiveness and openness. Read the news. The real news, not Actor News. Having an understanding of the world around you will feed your inspiration and put your own life into perspective. I can’t tell you how helpful it was during the process of working on “Fiddler on the Roof” to have access to New York Times stories and photos of Syrian refugees.
Go to museums, especially in NYC, where we have access to a wealth of resources. Whether preparing for a specific role or seeking inspiration, you have a grab bag full of goodies at your fingertips. Recently I enjoyed the Jewish Museum and YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research. I also love the Met and the Whitney.
Get out of the city. If you live in NYC, go to Storm King Art Center. Chicago, the Baha’i Temple. L.A., Joshua Tree. Invest in escaping the madness for a piece of zen, an area of solace where you can discover something new about the world, humanity, or yourself. Perhaps venture so far as to jump on a plane. I’m a travel nut, and have loved exploring far-off regions for work-related projects or just for my soul. This summer I hit Eastern Europe to do research for “Fiddler,” but since Kiev, Ukraine, was only a very short, cheap flight from Istanbul, I went there for a few days to explore and had a deeply meaningful experience. Get over the fears that might keep you from doing this kind of thing; realize that where there’s a will there’s a way, and make it happen.
Seek out sources of inspiration in other human beings, and make contact. We live in a world that’s more connected than ever. Reach out. Engage in some volunteer work. It might put your own issues into perspective and open creative doors.
I love coaching students, and some have found me by simply being bold and reaching out.
If there’s a play you love or an idea you want to explore on film, make it happen. Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you. Some of my favorite creative endeavors were those I created myself. I produced a play at the NYC Fringe, I co-wrote and produced a pilot for a Web comedy, I co-founded a nonprofit doing arts education for underprivileged kids in South Africa. I also love teaching. These are all things that keep me inspired, help me reach outside my own box, help me learn more about my creative self, and often lead to cool opportunities.
I believe your collective life experience is your greatest asset, both as an artist and as a human. So do things that scare you, break the routine, go on a journey, and come back inspired and enriched. Then pick up another copy of Backstage.
Kantor is currently starring on Broadway as Motel in the critically acclaimed revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
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