In which I am self-serving, but in a good community-building kind of way, at least if you’re over 30.

Well, this post is my Wahoo Wednesday post. I know its Thursday, but we Canadians had a holiday on Monday (thank you Queen Victoria) and its messed me up. This week, I’m excited by an idea because I saw it take hold in someone else and it made me remember that this is something I want to put out there for real.

Suppose just for a moment I was an accountant. All my life, I had loved numbers, so when it came time to decide on a course in life, I decided I would go to accounting school. I enjoyed learning about all the intricacies of accounting and the system that’s evolved through the centuries. I learned when its just rote work and when it requires a bit of creativity and problem-solving. I got good marks. I graduated with honours. I then got a series of jobs in the accounting field—low-level jobs as becomes a recent graduate. I enjoyed the work and was continuing to add to my knowledge, skills, and abilities. But, while I had a graduation certificate, I did not yet have my licencing papers, which limits how high up the hierarchy an accountant can go. So, I decided I should work towards that. Now, keep in mind that during this time, regular life is happening too. I was dating. I got married. We moved a couple of times. There were car repairs and trips to the grocery store. You know. Life. A couple of years down the road, I was almost ready to take my licencing test when I discovered I was (very happily) pregnant.

And suddenly, a new trail opened up in the forest of my life. A trail full of twists and turns, and sudden cliffs, and flora and fauna I had never seen before. I loved the new trail.

3 kids and many years later, the trail in the forest started to run parallel to the first trail. And I had a yearning, since I could see that other trail looking all verdant and seductive. I had a yearning to forge a new path, one that brought those two trails together.

Now, what would you tell me, were I to say to you “I miss accounting. I want to go back to that.” ? You would probably tell me. “Totally do-able. Why don’t you take a refresher course and then start applying for jobs. You can also work towards getting your licensing stuff done.” You probably would not tell me “Well, if you’re past thirty and you haven’t yet made it as a top dog accountant, it’s probably never going to happen for you.” or “You’re kind of past your accounting ability peak. People are really looking for accountants at the peak of their accounting powers.” No one would question whether I could still cope with an income statement or wrestle a balance sheet into submission, or know my credits from debits.

But now substitute the word accounting for one of the creative professions. Instead of accountant, say actor, writer, singer, director, painter, choreographer, photographer, dancer. Now suddenly, we have a whole different set of beliefs. And all those things that you wouldn’t say to a non-practicing accountant are said regularly to those with creative inclinations — particularly if they had not yet gotten that licencing paper before their hiatus (the union status, the published book, the exhibition). So, we tell our creative people that they are relegated to the hobbyist echelon. You can take a workshop, work in community theatre, start a blog, join an arts council, share your photos on Flickr. And let me be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with the hobbyist or enthusiast sphere. It’s a great creative outlet and re-entry point. A place to discover if you still love that thing you used to love. But it’s a difficult place to grow from. By and large, with obvious exceptions, it won’t push your boundaries.

I’m going to be controversial here. (How exciting!) I think the notion of talent is by and large crap and the belief systems that we’ve set up around talent are incredibly damaging. I think you get good at stuff because a) you love to do it and b) you practice it. Then people look at that passion plus that massed, focused practice and call you a natural. Yes, physically, some people are going to be more ‘talented’ than others. Physical structure can give someone a better voice or a longer stride. But for the most part, all that can be overcome with love of whatever it is, practice, and some good guidance. The good guidance part is important.

And let’s link this thought to the thing I keep harping on about here — neuroplasticity. We now know that our brains are plastic; that even us old fogies are capable of change and learning new things and re-learning the old things. Why is creativity something we think only the young are capable of?

Before this goes any further down the Rant Path which is also a seductive trail in my forest, although a bit more like a dark alley, let me bring it back to my idea.

In my case, you need to substitute acting for accounting. I went back in after my hiatus at the enthusiast level and discovered that yes, I still love it as much as I did when I left it. But there’s only so far I can go. With a three-week rehearsal process at the pro level, not too many people would be willing to take a chance on someone coming off of a long hiatus, and truthfully, I’m not as good as I once was. Not because I’m suddenly less “talented” or “past my talent peak,” but because acting is one of the hardest of the creative arts to practice solo. I’m unpracticed. I need to knock the rust out of my acting joints, to remember the stuff I learned back in acting school. It’s in the muscle memory somewhere, I just need to get it to the surface.

I need a refresher course.

I need something more than a once a week workshop and less than a 2-year full-time programme.

And since no one seems to be offering it, because the whole world is obsessed with training our blessed youth, then I want to put it together somehow.

These are the ingredients of what I’m thinking:

  • A short-term intensive for three months
  • Three times per week (2 evening and 1 weekend day)
  • Classes in acting, movement, and voice.
  • Some ‘businessy’ type stuff, like resumes, headshots, auditioning etc.
  • Taught by real working professionals (although they need to be good teachers too, not all working actors are good teachers)
  • short term (1-2 week) focus on different approaches, techniques, and genres
  • the intensive would end with a showcase as a (re)introduction to the creative community with invitations to artistic directors, (maybe casting directors and agents too, although I know less about the film world than the theatre world)
  • minimum age 30
  • open to people with signficant training and/or experience in their background. There would need to be some qualifying stuff because this is not a class for outright beginners, however, since auditioning is part of the problem, I’m not sure that it should be based solely on an audition. Perhaps a resume, an interview/discussion and low pressure show us what you can do kind of audition
  • Class limit 10-12. All participants, no auditors.
  • Cost probably around $1,000 (to pay for the instructors, the space, and the cost for the final showcase)

What should it be called? ‘Refresher Course for Actors“? “Post-Intermission Class“? “Getting Ready for your Second Act“? Suggestions welcome.

What do you think? Would you sign up? Are you interested in teaching it? Do you have a space we could use?

About Tentative Equinox North

Theatremaker, Homemaker, Thoughtmaker. Great hair, Probably looking forward to my next nap.
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2 Responses to In which I am self-serving, but in a good community-building kind of way, at least if you’re over 30.

  1. Godfather says:

    Sure, now you start a class…

    Funny, I started going through the same stuff about six months ago. Although I have spent the last 6 years on stage (professional speaking) and television (it was more of a spokesperson” role) neither of which apply to real “acting.”

    For the most part I started with back through Improvisation. It was an easy way to work back into the system, sharpen the mind, and get back out of my comfort zone. That led to more (paid) Improv and a movie role.

    So, what is the point?

    When I was twenty-something there were 87 million capable actors (yes, I probably counted them). My odds, despite talent, were limited – frankly, we were all talented.

    Now that I am older (age disclosure not important) many of those other “talented” people are not coming back. They are accountants, bankers, store-workers, etc. that have gone on to their “real” jobs – never to return.

    Dwindling competition aside, I have found networking is the key. Perhaps not as much for stage, but certainly for film. I stand out more. Not because I am any better than I was then, simply because I look like I should now more (I mean I am “older”).

    As for the class?

    I would have loved one and certainly would have paid $1,000 for the right line up of information and instructors. It would also make a great book!

    The name? Second Act or I am FINALLY ready for my close-up!

  2. Second Act. Brilliant Name!

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