I want to write a little bit about two recent blog entries written by my fellow Nosedivians, Patrick and James.
I think that an actor, like any artist, needs to be able to make their work a reflection of themselves. Any truly creative instinct will come from a place inside of you, from the bedrock of beliefs and desires that make you who you are. To dismiss an actor as a hack because they choose not to use certain words or do certain things in a performance is dismissive of their individuality and free will.
Now, the places you will find artistic inspiration tend to be toward the boundaries of what you are comfortable with. An actor who is passive and unwilling to stretch themselves into new types of roles will end up giving a boring performance. But, there are many different ways to work outside of your comfort range, and I don’t think it is necessary to break every taboo in your work. Breaking taboos can lead to revelatory moments, but when it is done for purely for the sake of crossing a line, it becomes sophomoric. In my mind, an actor can legitimately choose to not do certain things on stage (profanity, blasphemy, nudity) and still be considered to be an artist. Moreover, if you completely cede you will to a playwright or director, your performance will become less artistic, because it will no longer come from you. The danger comes when an actor refuses to cross ANY line they have set for themselves. This will lead to comfortable drivel.
Basically, I’m saying that it is completely legitimate to have a personal line that you will not cross in a performance, so long as you are actively searching out other ways of pushing your boundaries. If we did not have these boundaries, everybody’s worldview would take on the same shape, which would be incredibly boring.
On the other hand:
If as an actor there are things you will not do, that’s fine. But for God’s sake, make this clear in the audition process. DO NOT accept a role in something that you feel you will need to substantially change in order to perform. This is a recipe resentment and bitterness between you and the writer/director. I always try to make clear upfront what a show entails for the actors. A lot of the work Nosedive does is laced with profanity; when I’m cutting sides for a cold-reading audition I always try to pick scenes that are representative of the extreme elements of a show, in order to show the prospective actors what we are shooting for.
When we produced Ruins (a show with a great deal of nudity and sex in it) we laid our goals and expectations for what the performance would require out on the table, talking in specifics about how much nudity each of the roles required. Several actors who auditioned were uncomfortable with the requirements, and chose to take themselves out of the running. I have an enormous amount of respect for these people; as a young actor in NYC, you want more than anything else to be working. To turn down a show based on your personal beliefs is a very hard thing to do. But I tell you, by being upfront about it in auditions, they saved me so much hassle and grief down the road, and I am grateful to them for that.