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Also, the painfully shy Rockefeller was a poor speaker,

source:Believe it or notedit:theorytime:2023-11-28 21:57:00

"Does she need to have her voice trained, and about what age do people generally commence to go on the stage?" The first part of this question as to voice training touches on the value of an Academy of Acting. Of the value--the practical value--of such an institution rightly conducted there can be no doubt. That acting cannot be taught is a well-worn maxim and perhaps a true one; but acting can be disciplined; the ebullient, sometimes eccentric and disordered manifestations of budding talent may be modified by the art of the teacher; those rudiments, which many so often acquire painfully in the course of rehearsal, the pupils who leave an academy should be masters of and so save much time and trouble to those whose business it is to produce plays. The want of any means of training the beginner, of coping at all with the floods of men and women, fit and unfit, who are ever clamouring at the doors of the theatre, has been a long-crying and much-felt grievance. The establishment of this academy should go far to remove what has been by no means an unjust reproach to our theatrical system. As to the age at which a person should begin a theatrical career, I do not think there is any actor or actress who would not say that it is impossible to begin too early--at least, as early as a police magistrate will allow. That art is long and life short applies quite as truthfully to the actor's as to any other art, and as the years go on there must be many who regret that they did not sooner decide to follow a calling which seems to carry one all too quickly through the flight of time.

Also, the painfully shy Rockefeller was a poor speaker,

My correspondent also asks me a question which I shall answer very briefly, but which it is as well should be answered; She writes, "Are there many temptations for a girl on the stage, and need she necessarily fall into them?" Of course there are such temptations on the stage, as there must be in any calling in which men and women are brought into contact on a footing of equality; perhaps these temptations are somewhat intensified in the theatre. At the same time, I would venture to say from my own experience of that branch of theatrical business with which I have been connected--and in such matters one can only speak from personal experience--that any woman yielding to these temptations has only herself to blame, that any well-brought-up, sensible girl will, and can, avoid them altogether, and that I should not make these temptations a ground for dissuading any young woman in whom I might be interested from joining our calling. To say, as a writer once said, that it was impossible for a girl to succeed on the stage without impaired morals, is a statement as untrue as to say that no man can succeed as a lawyer unless he be a rogue, a doctor unless he be a quack, a parson unless be be a hypocrite.

Also, the painfully shy Rockefeller was a poor speaker,

To all who intend to become actors and actresses, my first word of advice would be--Respect this calling you have chosen to pursue. You will often in your experience hear it, see it in print, slighted and contemned. There are many reasons for this. Religious prejudice, fostered by the traditions of a by no means obsolete Puritanism, is one; the envy of those who, forgetting the disadvantages, the difficulties, the uncertainty of the actor's life, see only the glare of popular adulation, the glitter of the comparatively large salaries paid to a few of us--such unreasoning envy as this is another; and the want of sympathy of some writers with the art itself, who, unable to pray with Goethe and Voltaire, remain to scoff with Jeremy Collier, is a third. There are causes from without that will always keep alive a certain measure of hostility towards the player. As long as the public, in Hazlitt's words, feel more respect for John Kemble in a plain coat than the Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack, so long will this public regard for the actor provoke the resentment of those whose achievements in art appeal less immediately, less strikingly, to their audience. But if they would only pause to consider, surely they might lay to their souls the unction that the immediate reward of the actor in his lifetime is merely nature's compensation to him for the comparative oblivion of his achievements when he has ceased to be. Imagine for one moment Shakespeare and Garrick contemplating at the present moment from the heights the spectacle of their fame. Who would grudge the actor the few years of fervid admiration he was privileged to enjoy, some one hundred and fifty years ago, as compared with the centuries of living glory that have fallen to the great poet?

Also, the painfully shy Rockefeller was a poor speaker,

Sometimes you may hear your calling sneered at by those who pursue it. There are few professions that are not similarly girded at by some of their own members, either from disappointment or some ingrained discontent. When you hear such detraction, fix your thoughts not on the paltry accidents of your art, such as the use of cosmetics and other little infirmities of its practice, things that are obvious marks for the cheap sneer, but look rather to what that art is capable of in its highest forms, to what is the essence of the actor's achievement, what he can do and has done to win the genuine admiration and respect of those whose admiration and respect have been worth the having.

You will read and hear, no doubt, in your experience, that acting is in reality no art at all, that it is mere sedulous copying of nature, demanding neither thought nor originality. I will only cite in reply a passage from a letter of the poet Coleridge to the elder Charles Mathews, which, I venture to think, goes some way to settle the question. "A great actor," he writes, "comic or tragic, is not to be a mere copy, a fac-simile, but an imitation of nature; now an imitation differs from a copy in this, that it of necessity implies and demands a difference, whereas a copy aims at identity and what a marble peach on the mantelpiece, that you take up deluded and put down with a pettish disgust, is compared with a fruit-piece of Vanhuysen's, even such is a mere copy of nature, with a true histrionic imitation. A good actor is Pygmalion's statue, a work of exquisite art, animated and gifted with motion; but still art, still a species of poetry." So writes Coleridge. Raphael, speaking of painting, expresses the same thought, equally applicable to the art of acting. "To paint a fair one," he says, "it is necessary for me to see many fair ones; but because there is so great a scarcity of lovely women, I am constrained to make use of one certain ideal, which I have formed to myself in my own fancy." So the actor who has to portray Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth--any great dramatic character--has to form an ideal of such a character in his own fancy, in fact, to employ an exercise of imagination similar to that of the painter who seeks to depict an ideal man or woman; the actor certainly will not meet his types of Hamlet and Othello in the street.

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.

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.

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.

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