When we express our inner voice, we communicate to the world our creative purpose and our authentic self.
The first step on the journey of acting is to make a commitment. The journey to being an actor is a lifelong one. The steps to making such a monumental commitment will create a host of emotions and feelings inside but you are at the theatrical doorstep who’s foundation will ground you to your purpose and your future as an actor. This commitment requires you to develop a loyalty not only to yourself, but to the art form. Many actors who have already made such a commitment, may attempt to introduce their own ideas and opinions as to what is best for you on your journey. But your first step is to examine your own definition of your own success. What does it look like to you? Now it could very well change over time along your travels but the foundational steps should remain the same. You must establish a strong sense as to what type of actor and what type of career you want. What is the best path for you on your journey? Once you discover the answers to these simple questions, you are on the right path to your own version of success. Then you must make an honest commitment to that path. A weak commitment from the actor leads to disappointments and may stall the process. The entertainment industry like the actor should provide a service to the audience and the community. This service is a powerful exchange of events. This exchange should cause the audience and community to elevate and be inspired and transformed. The audience should arrive at some emotional gratitude such as happiness, joy, fear or concern. This special relationship that is shared between the actor and the audience is a sacred one. For many actors like myself, it is the ultimate determination of success.
On the other hand, many actors today may not feel this way at all. They may follow in totally different paths. This path may seem more conventional from what I am suggesting but nevertheless, whatever path you choose, it will shape the world around you. It will advise you as to what type of actor you will become. The actor who commits to the development of their art by taking the necessary training and time needed to learning the skills of activating the character to life, will soon become an artist actor. The artist actor will learn to accept and understand that the demands of training and personal development will insist and require an enormous amount of personal sacrifice and dedication. Ultimately, you will begin to sharpen your gift and improve over time and increase your ability, pace, speed, and awareness as an artist actor on your journey. You will have the ability and self-trust and navigate your own specific direction on your creative journey.
Keep in mind that many decisions made by the actor on and off the stage have considerable consequences to the believability of what you are trying to accomplish on your life journey. They are not always in direct correlation but the similarities are worthy of examination. So get into the habit of writing your thoughts down. Each choice you make particularly when it comes to the type of individuals and environment you associate with will impact your movement on your path. Your spiritual and mental health development processes you choose will play a huge part as well as how much of a commitment you make to your development and training. The artist actor must develop the ability to ultimately listen and learn from the community to which they serve. Yes, all artist actors serve regardless of how long you have been in the business. For as long as you are in the entertainment business or the performing arts, you are in the business of serving the audience, or someone or something. The ultimate question becomes how well you serve and who or what you are serving? Only serving yourself will not get you very far along your journey. But many actors may not consider serving to be of any relevance or importance. But the fact remains that the service you will provide will in the end, shape and fashion your career and will always be reflective in your choices as an artist actor. Your service will ultimately shape and determine the willingness and connectivity you will have to believing in yourself.
You will also discover on your journey that many actors will attempt to remain neutral, or even non-committal to the type of choices and roles/work they select. It may present itself as a matter of choice but it is actually a matter of convenience. It is not a bad thing to disagree and not be completely obedient to the entertainment industry’s uncompromising demands. To simple align your career path of merely earning a living or the single minded notion to simply be determined to get paid, or become famous could turn out to be a disappointment. All of these notions are at the serious expense of personal and artistic integrity. In other words, you simply choose to stop listening and trusting yourself and the process in order to follow the crowd. The common path to success may appears to be easier but in doing so you are also choosing to follow a path that was never intended or designed for the authentic you. Though it may be a familiar path, it may not be a course with your true happiness or self designed success in mind. But once you’ve made this compromising turn, you may find yourself having endless conversations trying to justify your choices long after you have realized the true consequences of those decisions. This takes us back to the first step of commitment and why it is vital that you make a clear and definitive choice from the very beginning of your journey. This will become the creative compass for your travels and will guide you as to how you will search out and find the various ways and sometimes difficult choices of your acting career. But keep in mind that the journey should be fun, exciting and adventurous despite some of the difficult steps along the way. Remember, when acting comes from within using the imagination the possibilities are endless.
I wrote The Actor’s Guide for Success in the American Theatre as a building block for the artist actor on their journey for life. It is to be used as a guide only and it is not the gospel. This book is merely a support tool for beginning actors mainly to be a model to various ways of dealing with choices. It is designed primarily for encouragement, help to problem-solving and provide resources to be used in the effort to avoid the mishaps that can discourage and distract you from reaching your dreams. I started my journey many years ago. I’ve had my own share of successes and challenges but they are mine and mine alone. Take from it what you need and leave the rest. Everyone’s journey is uniquely their own and specific to their gifts and talents. It is my hope that it will serve you and give you insight and the ability to trust your inner self and realize these possibilities on your creative journey.
-Phillip Bernard Smith