This post was contributed by our work-study student, Brendan Morales-Doyle. It grew out of a conversation we had about the doubts that artists face and how it doesn’t matter if you’re an actor or a writer, you must learn to quiet that internal editor. Brenden is now a Chicago actor and will be working on personal narratives here at StoryStudio.
When a bomb was detonated in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, it had come too close for comfort. The bomb, and the second explosive device, were located in the part of Manhattan where I spent last summer working out at a Planet Fitness ($10 a month), eating 99 cent pizza all day, and studying drama at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting.
The second device was found very close to a dive pizza joint called Two Brothers Pizza. I bought pizza there everyday along with some of my classmates, fellow students who became some of the best friends I’ve ever had. We talked and laughed for hours about everything; from utter nonsense to our hopes, dreams, and fears.
It was in Two Brothers when my mate Nick and I began to go off on the fact that I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be an actor, that this was all a mistake, and that everyone knows I am a fraud.
I had started to believe in my heart that all of our teachers thought I was a crap actor and my whole plan to build a career as a full-time professional actor was messed up and that I should do a Glee-worthy musical leap in front of the next oncoming D train going back to Brooklyn.
What I actually considered was taking the next Megabus back to Chicago. And then I imagined the scene where I tell my family that they were right: that becoming a full-time artist was a stupid decision. Then the vision got worse. I would land myself a brutally depressing 9-5 and suffer because my passions had become hobbies and I’d never know what could have been if I’d been 100% committed to my art.
I felt so alone at that moment, sure I was the only student in acting school who felt that way. But then Nick revealed that he feels the same way: that his greatest fear is that a teacher would stop him in the middle of a scene study class and ask him point blank if there is anything else in the world that he is interested in, because if there is…then maybe he should consider giving up acting and pursue that other thing.
That lecture never happened for either of us. Well, not really. Thank god.
Instead, we had some required reading, Stella Adler’s book, “The Art of Acting.” What she addressed early on in the book was the personal conflict that many of us suffer from: whether we have talent or not. Her response to that question was simple. That if you are reading this book now or if you are in her class right now, then the answer is yes. And then she said, now that we have addressed the issue, let’s move on and do the work.
On the first day of classes, one of the teachers looked at us all very hard and said, “one of the most important things that I can tell is that you need to learn on your own how to believe in yourselves. Because there will be moments, hours, days, and weeks where you will literally be the only ones who do.”
It’s a fact that some of the artists who are constantly questioning their talent do some of the best work out there. And the most important thing that I have learned is that if I show up and do the work, then the rest will take care of itself.
What does the work look like? It looks like me reading the play and figuring out what the heck is going on. I have to determine what the character I am playing ultimately wants for himself in life, what he wants in the play, and what he wants in each scene. And then there are shifts in the scene that I need to discover for myself and the audience.
Once all that has been revealed to me through the power of working at the craft, I need to begin to manifest all of my wants into actions. I’m gonna try everything I can within the script to get what I want as the character, while simultaneously being true to the character and myself. And when I am going to try very hard to get what I want because the stakes are high.
What happens is, that when I show up to do this work and put it into practice, my interpretation of the script on stage is a thousand times better than it was on my first day of rehearsal. Because, the first day of rehearsal in class, in front of an acting teacher is usually awful because it is new and hasn’t been fully explored. Then the teacher will obliterate me with a tall order of all of the things I need to work on for next time, and my mind will do a good job convincing me that there is no hope for any improvement and that it is all my parents’ fault for having the audacity to procreate such untalented offspring.
And just like a shitty first draft, there is a lot of refining, allowing for possibilities, and moments of enlightenment before deadline hits. What happens then, is that the final product ALWAYS proves that the work pays off. That once again my doubts and insecurities were wrong and that showing up to the page will get me where I need to go.
So do the work and let the universe take care of the rest.