I just did something extremely foolish. And smart. I committed myself to a very ambitious project – a one-person play, ALTMAN’S LAST STAND. I spent 3 years pushing it away for any number of reasons:
- It’s too much to learn, I will never get the role in my head (and heart)
- I’m not really old enough
- I may not good enough
- I’m scared of both the potential success or failure of this very ambitious effort
After I realized it was now or never and that this role was truly a “gift” that may never come around again, I committed. I spent 5 months of daily work learning the 90 minute, two-act, monologue. I spent at least an equal amount of time generating resources (human and financial) to help bring this wonderful play to fruition. In other words, I declared myself. I said, “I’m an artist and I want to reclaim my artistic primacy as an actor.” I want to give myself the chance to be great again. Oh, did I mention that the character is a 90 year old Viennese holocaust survivor? Might as well take a real “moonshot” and give myself as gigantic a challenge as possible!
What was the best thing, as an actor, that you ever did? Have you ever been that great again? How often do you get a role that allows you to be great? Franz Altman is such a role in our play, ALTMAN’S LAST STAND. And it terrified me on many levels, as these things do. It was a HUGE bite to take.
Jeffrey Tambor who just came and saw the play was full of praise for all aspects of the production. And he said to me, “You didn’t need to do this, you know. You could very easily just sit back.” And my response was, “Actually, I did need to do this. I was compelled to reclaim something of myself and my original purpose as an actor and artist. I absolutely did need to do this”. Being the artist he is he completely understood – and I think was hoping that’d be my answer!
It is our responsibility as artists to reacquaint ourselves to whatever greatness we may have possessed in the past. As you get on in life, it becomes more of a challenge to do so. As “they” say, the reward for something like ALTMAN’S LAST STAND is only artistic, it is rarely financial. By saying “only artistic” we reveal the jaundiced view we sometimes adopt, as being an actor inevitably becomes more of a commoditized profession and less of a passion. It is up to us to reclaim that passion periodically, the marketplace be damned. It is up to us to reclaim our artistic primacy.
Most of us spend a lot of time working in what I call “short form” acting:
- 3 page TV audition scenes
- Short films
- Cold reading (whatever the hell that is…..)
- Taped auditions
We involve ourselves less and less with “long form” acting – most of which is found in the theatre. Great roles, meaty roles, done several times a week in front of live people who, by their interaction with you, tell you so much about what it is you are trying to do. They teach you every night. This is an artistic luxury….and a necessity!
This all happened because Charles Dennis presented me with a “gift” – the role of Franz Altman. I had to accept that gift. And our director Charlie Haid was with me every step of the way with true leadership, vision, and the ability to inspire and challenge me without breaking me.
Be brave. Be smart. Reclaim what is yours. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but also the best thing…..in a very long time.