Sometimes I like to wander off the beaten path… Today is one of those days.
Whenever we meet someone new, it seems the same question comes up… “What do you do for a living?”
“What ARE you?” they want to know.
People may be hoping to connect with us by asking this question, but the question itself is really only suited to gathering surface information.
Once we answer with “I’m a —“, we instantly become a rigid quantity.
A category in someone’s iPhone address program.
But what if we don’t allow ourselves to get bogged down in the ‘What’?
What if we mentally shift past What to Why?
Sure, I work as a dialect consultant, you work as an actor, a director, a producer, an agent. But those work titles don’t even begin to scratch the surface of who we really are or how we aim to impact the world, do they?
We each have our own core beliefs and motivations that have led us to choose the actions and activities we have pursued. Sharing with people how the things we personally believe in are related to what we have chosen to do for a living allows us a real opportunity to connect with others on a truly human level.
By including the Why, we are suddenly no longer ‘an actor’ ‘an agent’ ‘a dialect consultant.’
We are a particular person with a specific world view who happens to work as an actor, an agent or a dialect consultant.
This happens because people are programmed to connect with other people and their ideas, rather than with job titles.
Why are you an actor?
Why are you a casting director?
Beyond monetary gain, what got you interested in your job in the first place and what is keeping you there?
What is it that you believe about life and the world that you are able to manifest or practice via your career?
And… what if next time someone asks what you do for a living, you include a good dose of Why in your answer?
To close today, I offer you two videos–
The first is of voice coach Patsy Rodenberg speaking about why she does theater. If you’ve not seen this yet (and even if you have), I heartily recommend it. (I also heartily recommend Patsy.)
The second is my very favorite vintage Sesame Street animated short. By now, you already know I’m a dialect consultant, but you may not know any of my Whys. One of my Whys is that I believe that the greatest opportunity I have as a human being while on planet Earth is that of personal growth. In my experience, nothing helps you grow like a nice shift of perspective…
Nice post, Pamela. Maybe it speaks to me because I posted that exact same Patsy Rodenburg clip a while back as well (http://jkarsh.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/welcome-to-los-angeles/). No shock there, really, it’s a great clip and I’m sure it gets around–which isn’t the reason for the comment.
But what’s interesting, I think, is that when you go to other countries a lot of times this isn’t an issue. Rather than leading with ‘what do you do,’ they lead with ‘where are you from’ and that takes the conversation in an entirely new path right from the outset.
We tend more to be driven by that status through association, maybe because so many of us were told by our parents that we could grow up to be lawyers and doctors rather than just good people. Who’s to say, but I completely agree with you that it’s the why that should drive you, no matter what it is you do, because it’s the why who really makes you who you are.
Thank you Pamela for this specific blog and the wonderful “videos” that support the blog. I was so moved almost to tears by the second story told by Ms. Rodenburg…yes, it was a clear reminder of why I perform as well…just do the work and tell the truth! Very inspiring.
I really like the video from Patsy (I hadn’t seen it before) but for what may be a different reason.
I wish, every time she had mentioned ‘actors’ and ‘being present’ and ‘second circle’ she had been able to clarify this as being GOOD actors. When she talks about the story of her friend who’s son had committed suicide I was totally in agreement that actors are really the only ones that would have been ‘present.’ But I’d have to qualify it as GOOD actors. I know way too many folks who call themselves actors but are no more present than the average person next door who has built their walls around them and their masks to show the rest of the world.
As an actor, it is our job, our responsibility, not to entertain or be interesting (that’s for the playwright) but to be present and honest. This is the only way to breathe life into the words of an amazing playwright. Without it, it’s just self-indulgent drivel.
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Pamela- Thank you for this blog entry. It confirms what I have believed for a very long time as an actor. I can bring an audience into my world through words and action, but the journey is not entirely complete until I have them emotionally captured. That last bit is not possible without being present and unguarded.