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Wynne, county seat of Cross County, in eastern Arkansas.

source:Believe it or notedit:abilitytime:2023-11-28 21:10:05

But, whilst in your hearts you should cherish a firm respect for the calling, the art you pursue, let that respect be a silent and modest regard; it will be all the stronger for that. I have known actors and actresses who were always talking about their art with a big A, their "art-life," their "life-work," their careers and futures, and so on. Keep these things to yourselves, for I have observed that eloquence and hyper-earnestness of this kind not infrequently go with rather disappointing achievement. Think, act, but don't talk about it. And, above all, because you are actors and actresses, for that very reason be sincere and unaffected; avoid rather than court publicity, for you will have quite enough of it if you get on in your profession; the successful actor is being constantly tempted to indiscretion. Do not yield too readily to the blandishments of the photographer, or the enterprising editor who asks you what are the love scenes you have most enjoyed playing on the stage, and whether an actor or actress can be happy though married. Be natural on the stage, and be just as natural off it; regard the thing you have to do as work that has to be done to the best of your power; if it be well done, it will bring its own reward. It may not be an immediate reward, but have faith, keep your purpose serious, so serious as to be almost a secret; bear in mind that ordinary people expect you, just because you are actors and actresses, to be extraordinary, unnatural, peculiar; do your utmost at all times and seasons to disappoint such expectations.

Wynne, county seat of Cross County, in eastern Arkansas.

To the successful actor society, if he desire it, offers a warm and cordial welcome. Its members do not, it is true, suggest that he should marry with their daughters, but why should they? An actor has a very unattractive kind of life to offer to any woman who is not herself following his profession. What I mean is that the fact of a man being an actor does not debar him from such gratification as he may find in the pleasures of society. And I believe that the effect of such raising of the actor's status as has been witnessed in the last fifty years has been to elevate the general tone of our calling and bring into it men and women of education and refinement.

Wynne, county seat of Cross County, in eastern Arkansas.

At the same time, remember that social enjoyments should always be a secondary consideration to the actor, something of a luxury to be sparingly indulged in. An actor should never let himself be beguiled into the belief that society, generally speaking, is seriously interested in what he does, or that popularity in drawing-rooms connotes success in the theatre. It does nothing of the kind. Always remember that you can hope to have but few, very few friends or admirers of any class who will pay to see you in a failure; you will be lucky if a certain number do not ask you for free admission to see you in a success.

Wynne, county seat of Cross County, in eastern Arkansas.


It is to a public far larger, far more real and genuine than this, that you will one day have to appeal. It is in their presence that you will finish your education. The final school for the actor is his audience; they are the necessary complement to the exercise of his art, and it is by the impression he produces on them that he will ultimately stand or fall; on their verdict, and on their verdict alone, will his success or failure as an artist depend. But, if you have followed carefully, assiduously, the course of instruction now open to you, when the time has arrived for you to face an audience you will start with a very considerable handicap in your favour. If you have learnt to move well and to speak well, to be clear in your enunciation and graceful in your bearing, you are bound to arrest at once the attention of any audience, no matter where it may be, before whom you appear. Obvious and necessary as are these two acquirements of graceful bearing and correct diction, they are not so generally diffused as to cease to be remarkable. Consequently, however modest your beginning on the stage, however short the part you may be called upon to play, you should find immediately the benefit of your training. You may have to unlearn a certain amount, or rather to mould and shape what you have learnt to your new conditions, but if you have been well grounded in the essential elements of an actor's education, you will stand with an enormous advantage over such of your competitors as have waited till they go into a theatre to learn what can be acquired just as well, better, more thoroughly, outside it.

It has been my object to deal generally with the actor's calling, a calling, difficult and hazardous in character, demanding much patience, self-reliance, determination, and good temper. This last is not one of its least important demands on your character. Remember that the actor is not in one sense of the word an independent artist; it is his misfortune that the practice of his art is absolutely dependent on the fulfilment of elaborate external conditions. The painter, the musician, so long as they can find paint and canvas, ink and paper, can work at their art, alone, independent of external circumstances. Not so the actor. Before he can act, the theatre, the play, scenery, company, these requisites, not by any means too easy to find, must be provided. And then it is in the company of others, his colleagues, that his work has to be done. Consequently patience, good temper, fairness, unselfishness are qualities be will do well to cultivate, and he will lose nothing, rather gain, by the exercise of them. The selfish actor is not a popular person, and, in my experience, not as a rule a successful one. "Give and take," in this little world of the theatre, and you will be no losers by it.

Learn to bear failure and criticism patiently. They are part of the actor's lot in life. Critics are rarely animated by any personal hostility in what they may write about you, though I confess that when one reads an unfavourable criticism, one is inclined to set it down to anything but one's own deserving. I heard a great actor once say that we should never read criticisms of ourselves till a week after they were written--admirable counsel--but I confess I have not yet reached that pitch of self-restraint that would enable me to overcome my curiosity for seven days. It is, however, a state of equanimity to look forward to. In the meantime, content yourself with the recollection that ridicule and damning criticism have been the lot at some time in their lives of the most famous actors and actresses, that the unfavourable verdict of to-day may be reversed to-morrow. It is no good resenting failure; turn it to account rather; try to understand it, and learn something from it. The uses of theatrical adversity may not be sweet, but rightly understood they may be very salutary.

Do not let failure make you despond. Ours is a calling of ups and downs; it is an advantage of its uncertainty that you never know what may happen next; the darkest hour may he very near the dawn. This is where Bohemianism, in the best sense of the term, will serve the actor. I do not mean by Bohemianism chronic intemperance and insolvency. I mean the gay spirit of daring and enterprise that greets failure as graciously as success; the love of your own calling and your comrades in that calling, a love that, no matter what your measure of success, will ever remain constant and enduring; the recognition of the fact that as an actor you but consult your own dignity in placing your own calling as a thing apart, in leading such a life as the necessities of that calling may demand; and choosing your friends among those who regard you for yourself, not those to whom an actor is a social puppet, to be taken up and dropped as he happens for the moment to be more or less prominent in the public eye. If this kind of Bohemianism has some root in your character, you will find the changes and chances of your calling the easier to endure.

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