Monday, September 16, 2013

Remembereing Roy

One of my first acting students and a very fine and devoted actor, Roy Milton Davis,  died last Spring.  It took several months for me to get the news and I was shocked. I did not know that he had been ill.  All I knew was the high--spirited, boundless optimism about his work that he always communicated to me.

Roy was one of just a tiny few of my students who really was an actor.  He lived the actor's Spartan life from the time he left college in 1974 until he died this year. Outside of some off- Broadway plays, he never had a large role. But he was never daunted.  He was an actor and he worked his entire life to be the best actor he could be.  I was pleased to have been able to see a couple of his roles in TV series these past couple of years.

Roy and I wrote often. We discussed the nature of acting and how it should be practiced. We did not always agree, but we always came to an understanding.  He sent me several  short essays he wrote about acting.  The following is one about playing extra roles and how important it was to create a character and give a complete performance:

    "To re-coin an old expression,"There are no small parts,only small actors."When you give your all to a given acting task it is noticed by the production company,no matter how small and insignificant the role may seem to be.People who play extras are often not thought of as legitimate actors.We do sometimes have to tolerate questions by a passerby like,"Are you one of the actors,or are you just an extra?Just an extra.I sometimes want to retort,"What is your position in the relative hierarchy of your own profession?You are a nobody,as well.And if you are working at all,you probably hate your job anyway.""At least I am being paid to do something that I love and I will not be "just an extra"forever."While you will probably be a bitter nobody,forever."When assigned to walk by in the background,I will assign myself a purpose in walking by.Maybe looking for an address.Maybe going back home because I forgot something.Maybe looking for cigarette butts.Maybe rushing to the subway because I am running late for work.Maybe I am vacating the premises because I want to avoid being questioned by the police.Anything.I can easily get away with simply walking by,but I like to go a little more in depth with my characterizations.Just I aim to do with principal work.We are creative artists in our own right and no matter what the size of the role,our efforts at creativity are appreciated,even in instances when we are cast in writing masterpieces."

Roy loved being the creative artist he mentions above. It was his reason for being. He is greatly missed.  Above all, Roy was an ACTOR.

Monday, September 9, 2013

How much should it cost to become an actor?

Sorry for the long lapse in posts.  It is good to be back.  It takes some motivation to add a post to the blog and for some time, as you can see, I have not been properly motivated to do so.  But now I am.

I recently read an article about Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL) in which he was quoted as wanting the government to pay for degree programs for all students.  While I adamantly disagree with him, this would solve the problem of the high cost of education. Well, it would for the student for the moment.  But the high cost would create a new entitlement and add to the national debt and deficit. 

I don't think going to college is a Right anymore than I think becoming an actor if one chooses to is a Right.  What I do think is that colleges under the thumb of the teacher's unions, and  under their own bureaucracies have become preposterously expensive. University professors are far over paid and the cost of operating a college or university has been artificially inflated to astronomical levels.  That being the case, few but the very wealthy can attend college without government help mostly in the form of student loans. 

But the prospective actor who graduates college with a huge debt of student loans is almost certain not to succeed as an actor. The burden of debt most liable will force the student out of acting and into something that has a regular pay check.

Acting schools are as bad as universities when it comes to inflated costs. Why should it cost thirty or forty thousand dollars a year to study to become an actor when it is almost certain that you will not become one?   What is to be done about the cost of acting training when both the colleges and the academies are so expensive?

Indeed, why isn't acting training free?  And I mean without the government paying for it as Senator Rubio desires.

The only answer is GREED.  We find that when a well known, successful actor teaches as a college or academy, he commands a large fee.  I submit that he only needs bare expenses and that he should teach essentially for free.  He doesn't need the money, and his instruction is not guaranteed to have a positive result. So why does he charge at all?  Whatever happened to the traditional and noble idea of serving the art of acting?

At my website,, I offer all the instruction in how to become an actor that I can. And I offer it for nothing.  Acting and the theatre have been my life. They provided me with a modest income, and a modest retirement. But, in fact, I do not need any more money. So everything I have to offer is free.  As it should be. 

I remember as a young man meeting Sir Tyrone Guthrie, founder of the Stratford Ontario Shakespeare Festival and the theatre that bears his name in St. Paul/Minneapolis.  And I remember his writing that his work was to SERVE the theatre and that he believed that as a service to GOD.  On my website I write a little about this in my essay "Theater, Religion, and Football."  Back on the issue, however, when one works as a service, he does not do it for money.  So my info is free and my acting lessons are free.

I believe that Free is the right price given how next to impossible it is to succeed as an actor.  I invite all to visit my web site and to contact me regarding questions about acting and having a career as an actor.