To work is to act

Feb 04 2013 by Janet Howd Print This Article

A recent BBC news headline:" Young 'cannot cope with daily life" caught my eye last month.The 'young' the article referred to were those seeking employment for the first time who had gone overnight from being part of a social unit that a school or higher education establishment provides to belonging to no community at all.

Until this most recent recession stymied the job's market, it was mostly people at the end of a working lives who found themselves unable to cope because they no longer had a regular place of engagement. But now, no matter how motivated the young are to get onto the first rung of the ladder, it is probably more difficult to get a foothold there than it has been for the past 67 years. Indeed, the world of work is changing so fast that people are unlikely to find themselves employed in the same place for more than a year or two - never mind having the same job for an entire working lifetime.

As world recession bites and new technologies come on stream, periods of unemployment and jobs that do not utilise a worker's skills of choice are set to become the norm. But fortunately, there a historic precedent that young people can look to for help in dealing with so peripatetic an existence and that is the life of an actor.

The definition of an actor - 'one who Interprets' - does not just apply to the invention of a character but also to the way that most thespians have to self manage and constantly invest in themselves throughout their working lives. A lucky few land a first role that gains so much public adulation that their continued employment in 'the business' is guaranteed. For the majority, however, no matter how eminently qualified, rejection - the end result of most auditions - is a constant reality. And even once they do get work, they can just as soon become redundant because the play they are in either ends its run, or flops, or they redund themselves.

The latter is a frequent ocurrance because no matter how high profile the role they are playing, actors know that to play the same part for too long tends to stultify their own minds and, more importantly, tends to narow the minds of directors about that particular player's ability to undertake a role with characteristics different from the one they currently portray.

Inevitably, being an actor means spending months or even years of working at something other than your employment of choice simply to make ends meet. But, whether they are waiting tables, stacking shelves, changing tyres, manning call centres, being cleaners or builders' mates and sometimes being completely out of work, committed thespians always make time to keep voice and body, mind and memory in good shape so that no matter how long they spend off stage, the ability instantly to deliver the goods is theirs when an audition for a suitable part comes along .

To avoid Weltschmerz and maintain a healthy state of mind, actors take very seriously the need to remain connected and engaged in real time with other workers in their field. And from now on, no matter what their job of choice, each and every worker will need to follow suit. It is going to be up to individuals to keep in sufficient mental and bodily trim to grow their chosen skills and keep them up to date by searching out, taking in and digesting fresh ideas. The financial burden of this need not be great as long as fellow workers remain open to the barter of information, the sharing of tools and the pooling of entrepreneurial ideas.

As ever, those who are in the vanguard of change will have to take the most flack and some will be mown down. But nothing worthwhile ever came out of sitiing alone and waiting for life to alter itself.

By constantly re-interpreting our own abilities and engaging with fellow travellers, we should be able to propel life in general to a successful conclusion and perform a good many roles along the way of which we can justifiably be proud.

more articles

About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.