So much continues to happen in the world—violence, chaos, division. There’s so much suffering and uncertainty. Even for those of us who aren’t directly affected, the result can be paralyzing. For actors, most of whom are wonderfully hyper-sensitive, the weight of it all can take its toll, making you want to cave in, get silent, and hide your head in the sand. But you can’t. You have jobs to book and a world to change, and your art can do that.
It’s at this crossroads of suffering and hypersensitivity that we want to look for ways to stay the course, to keep on keepin’ on. Ways to show up for our work and the people in the world who need us. They say, “You gotta stay strong.” You have to suck it up, suit up, and show up. While there are times when you have to push emotion to the side to get things done, this largely patriarchal notion of only managing suffering by toughening up and suppressing emotion may not be the healthiest way.
We’ve spent many years trying to deny our own vulnerability because many of us were taught that it was worthy of shame and got in the way of taking action to solve the issue, the source of the suffering. But we’ve come to know that isn’t true. It’s largely the product of fear and fragility, passed down through the generations. Through art, we’ve learned that for hyper-sensitive people looking to navigate their way through a violent world there is another way.
As actors, you know the power of vulnerability, that the expression of your vulnerability is what moves people on an emotional level. The honest expression of your unique emotional life in a scene is what wins an audition room. It’s what reminds people in that room of their own humanity. It’s your superpower. In these challenging days, you must not check your vulnerability at the door. Now more than ever, the world needs your vulnerability. It informs your intention and leads to powerful, mindful action.
The work, then, isn’t trying to create calluses, fortify walls, and make yourself more rigid. Rather, it’s to nurture your body, mind, and spirit so that they are soft and elastic, and can absorb and rebound. The work is finding compassion in yourself so you can see it in others—even those who aren’t seeing yours. The work is filling your own tank as much as possible with self-care, self-love, and artistic expression so you can be more vulnerable and honest in the world.
Look, we don’t know how you walk through the world and the challenges you face. We can’t understand the specifics of your experience. It is disingenuous for us to demand that you let your guard down—maybe it’s there for a good reason. We will say, though, that no matter who or where you are you possess the ability to tap into the universal vein of the human experience. The expression of your unique emotional experience in the world is essential to transforming suffering into peace. It’s what makes art great, and, yes, it’s what books work. Put up your guard when you need to, but no matter what happens, don’t let anyone rob you of your softness. It is inextricably linked to your very humanity. It’s precious. You need it. We need it.
We see this change actors. They bring their hearts, their unique points of view of the world, their individual emotional truths, and their vulnerability into the audition room, into rehearsal, and onto the set. They are willing to show themselves because, in the end, that’s all we want. We want to see you.
*This post was originally published on March 13, 2019. It has since been updated.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.