Tuesday, 29 July 2008

You Act Because You Don't Like Who You Really Are

I was casting for a play a while back and my old alma mater had kindly lent some space to see actors and as I strolled by, I spotted the above graffiti on a phone box right next to the main entrance; strategically placed to catch all the passing drama students and perhaps sow a seed of doubt.

I wonder if it convinced anyone of the error of their acting ways?

I doubt it, I would guess that it aroused a more confrontational response but the trouble is, the statement is right.

At the fundamental root of most people's journey into the acting profession is some kind of deep-set self-loathing that shows itself in the desire to be liked and to be loved, for approval. Most of us deal with this by working hard, or being a success in a certain field, or having kids and getting worth from them. The most daft of us go into acting, a profession which, by it's very nature, constantly challenges your self-worth and tests the boundaries of self-esteem.

You could call actors masochists...or needy idiots, either/or really.

I got into acting as a 9 year old child because I could escape who I was at the time (quiet, meek, bullied, repressed) and transform into something better, something spectacular: Sweeney Todd for example or a General in World War I. Acting also put my disturbingly furtive and active imagination to good use and focused my creative talent.

As I got into my teens, acting became a means of therapy to process repressed sexual feelings towards women, or to exorcise violent tendencies or re-inact terrible moments from my life to that point and either re-live them (masochism again) or to alter the outcome.

I would say that it is only recently, as a 32 year old man, that I've moved away from using acting as a means to justify my existence and my self-worth and to selfishly use it as a conduit to process past trauma and rather, use it for what it is there for: to tell good stories, to get people to think and feel and to entertain them.


  1. Oh so very true. I did a lot of acting in my teens and early twenties, and I know of that which you speak.

    But of interest to me is the artistic style handwriting. My bet is that it was written by a self-loathing actor.

  2. Slightly different topic, same vein.

    I went through a phase where I was a little disdainful of "escapist" literature, drama, even video games. I bought into the argument that if it's not real or if it doesn't Matter, then it's not worthwhile.

    A good friend of mine sobered me up. He was in the middle of chemotherapy and pointed out that a little escapism and a good story is exactly what he needed. Sometimes having a "because" is enough, regardless of the reason.

    By the way, I love graffiti that makes you think.

  3. Saur: maybe it was, never thought of that or someone who couldn't get in?

    Jess: nice to have you back over here, I agree that graffiti that makes you think it good graffiti.

  4. All creatives have an element of self-loathing in them. That's why we create - to escape ourselves...and to take our minds of our mortality.


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