In the Name of Action

Last Thursday The ACTion Collective made its big debut, rounding up roughly a dozen incredibly talented and daring actors for an event that invited them to bring scripts to be performed that very same night with minimal preparation, in most cases working with someone new-to-you. It was an experiment, a game, and I think a rousing success. Certainly preparing for it and the results we achieved roused enthusiasm in me for another such event, and so far the feedback has been positive enough to warrant that response. People had fun, and people have ideas for more fun along similar lines. As I've stated before, I'm a big fan of beginnings and the energy they engender. I think I'm becoming more and more appreciative of continuity, though -- particularly when it's my work I'm talking about, of course.

Our work, I should say, because a lion's share of the preparation for Thursday and for laying the groundwork for ACTion Collective at-large was achieved by Friend Andrew. It's been frankly inspiring (and only a little frightening at times) to work with such a reliable and responsive collaborative partner. We all have our projects, and we actors are notoriously wicked when it comes to neglecting one to serve seventeen others, and I am certainly guilty of letting slide a thing or two, here or there, from time to time . . . uh . . . over and over. I never realized before, however, that this occurs most often because I don't receive a response on my outgoing work soon enough. Such is not the case with Andrew, even remotely. It probably helps that we're both geeks (and getting geekier by the hour). We may as well call the Gods of Google our silent third(s?), and Andrew's a Mac, I'm a PC.

The event itself ("ACT I," we've taken to calling it) was a giant collaboration, in fact, which is part of why I wanted to do it in the first place. Fostering a sense of collaboration empowers actors, I believe, and also lends us some perspective on the many reasons that people with other jobs in creating theatre (or film, or what-you-will) may not always understand us. I was concerned about ACT I feeling too much like a potluck, without structure, yet wanted to allow room for participant contribution in a social setting. We found a nice balance -- people even contributed food and drink without prompting, and took every challenge we threw out at them with grace and eagerness. I think next time we'll feel more at ease to structure, leaving the freedom up to folks' own sense of proportion. The experiment is ongoing, but it definitely feels as though it's going forward.

Some of the contributing ideas to ACTion Collective, in no particular order:
  • It's called a "play" for a reason. (This is paraphrased from somewhere - Dario Fo, perhaps?)

  • Actors need to be empowered, because much of the audition and rehearsal processes can and do (intentionally or non-) relegate the actor's craft to a low priority.

  • Unlike other creative artists, actors need other people in order to act, because without them the equation isn't balanced, and the work is incomplete.

  • As actors, we can instinctively be in competition with one another, but this sabotages what we want to achieve in myriad ways -- see above.

  • The typical model of work-flow for a working actor largely puts him or her in the position of relying on others' decision-making for when they work and what they work on.

  • An actors' work is always, always better when s/he can combine the relaxation of game-play and experimentation with the desire to work toward the most effective expression of a script, which one doesn't always have the time or permission to achieve in a necessarily short rehearsal period.

  • Acting takes practice; good acting takes regular practice.

  • It's fun.

  • Most actors are willing to work for the sake of the work, but we must resist it in the interests of a sustainable career; being free to focus on the craft on a regular basis, without such worries, empowers us to make sure we value the rest of our efforts as we should.

  • Networking is not enough; we need a community.

  • Action begets action.

It's exciting work in an exciting time. At first, I was going to describe a bit of what happened, the little challenges and victories that came about, the laughs, and of course the pumpkin fudge, which doesn't sound natural but is an amazing and delightful adventure of the taste buds. But the fact is, it loses something in translation. Words will not suffice. It's not enough to hear about it, or even witness it.

To know it, you have to do it.