I had an interesting class recently. Only seven people showed up. The rest had booked jobs and were working.
The seven that showed up were pretty depressed after finding out that so many of their classmates were working (and they weren't). We had a long discussion at the beginning of class – actor talk – commiserating mostly. I could feel the energy in the room dropping. It felt like a black cloud moved into the room. I spoke to it and everyone agreed.
Since the class was so small and we had plenty of time, everyone got to share about what was going on. It was your typical depressing chatter: one person was up for a job and didn’t get it; someone else just went through a relationship breakup; another lost their day job; and one still can’t find a place to live and has a long commute to class. The energy spiraled downward, and it continued to fall. They even tried to top one another with their misery. We laughed about it, as it was the typical complaining that we all know so well.
Still, there was a black cloud in the room, and the energy was heavy, dark, you could feel it. It was nothing too serious – no cancer, death, or lost limbs – just business related and low, exhaustive, uncreative energy. The kind that results from the grind that actors must endure in this business.
After the complaining session ended, everyone was ready to work.
“Are you ready?” I asked them.
They all answered “yes,” and seemed to be back to their old selves.
“Do you feel you’re back to where you need to be to act and get into the work?” I asked.
“Yes,” they answered again. “We’re back to normal, let’s get to work.”
“Hold on,” I said. “Let’s talk about the energy you’re wearing on your body. You're walking around with this invisible negativity.”
“No,” they argued. “We’re ready to move on.”
I watched this group for a moment and said nothing. The room became quiet and still.
“Before we begin,” I said, “I’d like to hear the good news going on in your life.”
I asked each student to give me three bits of good news... silence. I mean silence, with looks that begged, “can we please stop this and just get on with the work?” In that moment, they all hated me.
“Come on, let's turn this around,” I continued. “I want three pieces of good news from each of you.”
They wouldn’t budge.
One student finally said, “I can’t think of one at the moment.”
“Then you’re dead,” I told her. “Dig.”
There were more long pauses and exhausted sighs. They were pissed. They didn’t want this inner mind bullshit, they just wanted to act. I waited. It was quiet. No one said a word, so I turned to one student.
“You go first,” I said.
There was a pause. A long pause. And then...
“I have an audition tomorrow,” he offered. “That’s it.”
“Keep going,” I said.
More silence. The others noticed the resistance this student was in. He was committed to his misery, until finally...
“Well, I do have another audition on Friday,” he offered.
“So you have two auditions this week?”
“Yes,” he said, “but they're just small things.”
“Do you think you’re going to be good going in the way you are now?”
“I can fake it,” he said.
“Good luck,” I told him. “You're walking around in despair, and casting directors can smell it on you.”
We continued. It took almost 45 minutes to get everyone open and free enough to speak about their good news. Then things started to pop up. They were simple at first:
“I got here safe.”
“My wife made a great dinner last night.”
“I got a residual check this week.”
“My mother in law is in town, and I like her.”
Things were discovered, revealed, and shared. They were small things at first. Then, even more was revealed. More personal, deeper things. It was exciting to look around the room and see the smiles grow.
“The more you notice and acknowledge your good news,” I explained, “the more good news you see.”
It was almost like a preparation process for a part. I could see and feel the energy shift. The room got lighter. There were smiles and laughter. They actually felt better. It was silly, but the message was clear:
“We are in charge of our energy, and as actors, we need to be in a certain light when we work.”
The entire room's energy turned around. It was impressive to see such a shift in a short amount of time. Then we went to work, which was on another level and great. Someone asked me if I turned up the lights in the room, as it actually seemed brighter.
“No,” I said. “You became brighter, and it’s lighting up the room.”
Remember, that’s what we do. We brighten up the room with our talent, and share.