Life is Art - Reflections by a Tisch School of the Arts Student
One of my absolute favorite quotes was read to me by my Method Acting teacher, Lola, at one of our first lessons freshman year. I came to think of it explicitly after yesterday’s FB call with Siri, an inspiring actor and amazing Dane studying and working back in New York right now, and because of the dinner discussion some of the other PAs and I had in which I argued that film and cinema can’t (or shouldn’t) just be entertainment.
The quote is by Marlon Brando who’s more than a house God at the Strasberg Institute, and to me it explains precisely why I chose, and continue to choose to go down the insecure and immensely difficult path that is studying – and living – art.
Life is art, and living it is an art – or it should be approached as an art. Very few do this, but it’s really the only way to give to others, to improve one’s life, to give it any sort of meaning.
Tennessee [Williams] gave you – and, by extension, me – a very specific question or challenge: How should one live? Well, you approach a character or a blank page or a bare canvas or a day in the life in the same ways: You look at the barren surface and you apply to it whatever will make it true and relevant and worthy of sharing. I don’t want to see an actor who doesn’t have some appearance of having lived, of having survived, of enduring some challenges and some pain. The performance is coming to us through these experiences, these survived experiences, and it is colored with something utterly unique but also something universal. We have all hated ourselves and wanted to change, to move on, and I want to feel that in a performance or a book or a painting. We need it in our lives. We can meet people and recognize immediately that they are open and giving and have been through some shit, but they’re showing up and living and doing their best. Those are the people to whom we are attracted, with whom we are compelled to share.
The giving of ourselves is the greatest art, really, and it is very difficult to do, because we essentially are afraid that we aren’t enough, that we don’t have enough. So we hide behind facades – performances of denial. This is not living, but bad acting on the stage of life, and it is unforgivable. We have all done it, and it has to stop. We have to show up bare of face and heart and be present. This is the great challenge, I think. To show up and share the person you are within the life you have.
It is entirely unique, and time is running out.
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