Monday, September 16, 2013
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.