Words, Words, Words – to Inspire

I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral

People ask what are my intentions with my films -my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. I prefer to describe what I would like my aim to be.

There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed — master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres.

Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are unimportant in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; ‘eternal values,’ ‘immortality’ and ‘masterpiece’ were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility.

Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation. The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other’s eyes and yet deny the existence of each other. We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal.

Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon’s head, an angel, a devil — or perhaps a saint — out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.” 
~ Ingmar Bergman

EVOLVING to become a Master at your craft
If you are lucky, you will always be mastering one level of speaking or acting and then moving on to the next.  And this change, this transition will be uncomfortable.  You will want to hang on to old thoughts, beliefs and habits.  But all that is readjusting, realigning and you must allow the chaos.  Therein lies your creativity.  Stay with the discomfort.  Stay connected to the truth.  Let the process work itself out and learn and grow and create with the new, never-before seen or used or felt tools. Be courageous.
Let go of what was and realize that you cannot learn what you need to know with the tools you have, you need new ones and they will always be changing.  Trust yourself and the process.  It will never fail you.  Everything you want is truly outside of your comfort zone because in your present comfort you are still frustrated and wanting.
  • “Every positive change – every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness – involves a rite of passage. Each time to ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go through a period of discomfort, of initiation. I have never found an exception.” — Dan Millman
  • “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson
  • Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  H. Ford
  • “It is better to speak from a full heart and an empty head then from a full head and an empty heart.”  from The Dublin Opinion

“I do what works. I believe that acting is a wilderness and that just as you reach a clearing, feeling safe and secure, it’s time to march back into the wilderness. I subscribe to no method, no school, no approach. Providing an actor can speak, move, read English, and memorize, the rest is up for grabs.

There are, of course, certain basics. You must own your lines as you own your own toes. You must know what they mean and you must mean them when you say them. But, that done, the mystery of acting will remain your lifetime companion.

I have learned most from audiences, too often ignored by actors, as if somehow doing it for them is contrary to the truth of their art. Audiences have to hear you, they have to understand you, and they must be moved to laughter or tears by what you do. It is their comfort actors must consider – their pleasure. Actors send life across the footlights and audiences send back the reward.

It is, of course, not as simple as all that. If it were, anyone could do it, and anyone can’t. You need breath, stamina, skill and talent. The first three you can acquire, the latter you can’t. If you are blessed with talent, respect it and cherish it.

Young actors should, early on, rid themselves of the notion that there is a “right” way to act. There is only what works and, in order to come close to what works each night, an actor cannot burden himself with anything that does not result in the truth of the moment, and in the communication of that truth to his audience.

There is much to learn from the investigation of all theories, all styles of acting, and all approaches. But after he absorbs all he needs, the actor must be ready to forget it. He must take a deep breath, call upon his stamina and skill, trust in his talent and go out there and be.

  • All else is a wilderness in which the actor must happily wander.”  Frank Langella, Theatre and Film Star
  • “Make voyages, there’s nothing else.” — Tennesse Williams
  • ACTING – it wakes ourselves up to who and what we are.”  F. Murray Abraham
  • “Above all, the actor must be the great understander – and that puts him in a category with the philosopher, the poet and the priest.”  Laurence Olivie
  • From Chinua Achebe
    “The poet (artist) who is not in trouble with the King
    is in trouble with his work.”

The actors who show their tension are better off than those who have it under control.

Encourage tension to express itself in the part of the body in which it is occurring.

Allow tension to express itself as part of the life that is happening in the scene. Then focus and involve yourself with your choices and with your acting partner. INVOLVEMENT IS THE ENEMY OF TENSION.

The more you are concerned with yourself, the less you are with others.

Give up being right or correct or good.

Leave yourself alone.

Trust yourself.

Stay in the moment.

You have to fail as an actor to be a good actor.  You are going to fail.  Success is an accident so have your own compass.

FEAR is the excitement necessary for the message to move the audience.  It shows you care. COURAGE is having fear and doing it anyway.  Be willing to fail, to be foolish, to be ridiculed, to discover the unknown areas of yourself without judging.

There is only the commitment – to make mistakes and how to make them work for us.  That’s the magic some have.

Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.

The willingness to be wounded may be all we have to offer.

  • “You must learn to float without your hands.  Hands are used to untie knots.”
  • “When a person attempts something intellectually or physically they usually succeed!  Yet, most people imagine they will fail more often than succeed and never attempt what they want to do.  What we do not do out of fear is experienced as failure.” Psychologist Karen Harvey’s Study of  Self-esteem

From The Invisible Actor by Yoshi Oida

In the Kabuki theatre, there is a gesture which indicates ‘looking at the moon’, where the actor points into the sky with his index finger. One actor, who was very talented, performed this gesture with grace and elegance. The audience thought: “Oh, his movement is so beautiful!” They enjoyed the beauty of his performance, and the technical mastery he displayed.

Another actor made the same gesture, pointing at the moon. The audience didn’t notice whether or not he moved elegantly; they simple saw the moon.

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

  • “It is not the critic that counts.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. — Teddy Roosevelt

If someone asks why you do what you do, tell them this:

  • “Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the Earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in 1 year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get “real jobs,” and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day they have to ignore the possibility that the vision to which they have dedicated their lives is a pipe dream. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the cars, the family, the house, the nest egg.”
  • “But they stay true to their dream, in spite of sacrifices. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to that line, that laugh, that gesture or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another person’s heart. In that instant, they are as close to magic, God and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is
    worth a thousand lifetimes.”
     — David Ackert
  • ‎”… I never understood why people get into such a state about nudity. For God’s sake, it’s much, much more difficult and revealing, and incredible, to show your soul, and that’s what you’ve got to be willing to do. Why anyone should want to be an actor, without being prepared to do that, I have no idea.” — Eileen Atkins
  • “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — The Buddha

Quotes on Art, Acting and the Creative Spirit

♦     I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. ~Oscar Wilde

♦     Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.  ~Stella Adler

♦    Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep.  ~Scott Adams

♦     Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.  ~Twyla Tharp

♦     The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.  The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.  ~Carl Jung

♦    It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet.  ~Kojiro Tomita

♦     Acting is happy agony.  ~Jean-Paul Sartre

♦     We all know that Art is not truth.  Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.  The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.  ~Pablo Picasso

♦     Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

♦     All art requires courage.  ~Anne Tucker

♦     Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.  ~Rosalind Russel

♦     When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work.  I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.  She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”  ~Howard Ikemoto

♦     No great artist ever sees things as they really are.  If he did, he would cease to be an artist.  ~Oscar Wilde

♦     Man will begin to recover the moment he takes art as seriously as physics, chemistry or money.  ~Ernst Levy

♦     Art is the triumph over chaos.  ~John Cheever

♦     All great art comes from a sense of outrage.  ~Glenn Close

♦     Art… does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright by a sermon.  ~Agnes Repplier, Points of View, 1891

♦     For an actress to be a success she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.  ~Ethel Barrymore

♦     The artist’s talent sits uneasy as an object of public acclaim, having been so long an object of private despair.  ~Robert Brault

♦     Art is not a thing; it is a way.  ~Elbert Hubbard

♦     Surely nothing has to listen to so many stupid remarks as a painting in a museum.  ~Edmond & Jules de Goncourt

♦     Acting is all about honesty.  If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.  ~George Burns

♦     When an actor plays a scene exactly the way a director orders, it isn’t acting.  It’s following instructions.  Anyone with the physical qualifications can do that.  ~James Dean

♦     Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.  The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is.  ~Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, 1915

♦     Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade.  With it, it becomes creation.  ~Betty Davis

♦     A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. ~Albert Camus

♦     I wouldn’t go up on a stage now if you paid a thousand dollars for one minute of acting. It’s a nasty experience.  You’re up there all by yourself.  You’re so damn exposed.  ~Elia Kazan

♦     Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work.  Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like – then cultivate it.  That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.  ~Jean Cocteau

♦     Acting isn’t really a creative profession.  It’s an interpretative one. ~Paul Newman

♦     Any great work of art… revives and re-adapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world – the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. ~Leonard Bernstein, What Makes Opera Grand?

♦     Among the languages of American Indians there is no word for “art.”  For Indians everything is art … therefore it needs no name. ~Jamake Highwater

♦     Acting deals with very delicate emotions.  It is not putting up a mask.  Each time an actor acts he does not hide; he exposes himself.  ~Rodney Dangerfield

♦     Art should always make people laugh a little and frighten them a little.  Anything but bore them.  Art has no right to be boring. ~Jean Dubuffet, “Popular Lecture in Painting”

♦     Actors should be overheard, not listened to, and the audience is 50 percent of the performance.  ~Shirley Booth

♦     The minute I start to talk about acting, I realize that I can’t.  You know, it’s an abstract thing, a little bit mysterious even if you do it for a living.  ~Christopher Walken

♦     Bunny slippers remind me of who I am.  You can’t get a swelled head if you wear bunny slippers.  You can’t lose your sense of perspective and start acting like a star or a rich lady if you keep on wearing bunny slippers.  Besides, bunny slippers give me confidence because they’re so jaunty.  They make a statement; they say, ‘Nothing the world does to me can ever get me so far down that I can’t be silly and frivolous.’  If I died and found myself in Hell, I could endure the place if I had bunny slippers.  ~Dean Koontz

♦     With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it.  There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting.  It’s lying.  ~Johnny Depp

♦     When in doubt, make a fool of yourself.  There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth.  So what the hell, leap. ~Cynthia Heimel