I didn’t break 100lbs until I was in 9th grade.
So, in 6th grade…I was skinny—scratch that. I was scrawny. I had a tiny, little, rib exposing frame, and a big round head.
When our band teacher, Mr. Siler, asked me what instrument I wanted to play, it only seemed natural that I choose an instrument that looked like me.
The trombone. I figured we had a connection. We shared a similar lanky plight.
I remember going to the music store and picking out a trombone, playing with the slide, knocking things over with it….
In its case, it weighed more than I did and was bigger than me. It’s difficult to hold something bigger than you, and I soon learned that carrying it on the bus was not going to earn me friends.
So, for three years in middle school band, I never practiced outside of class. Mr. Siler knew it, my fellow trombone-ists knew it, and I knew it.
I was last chair trombone in the Shiloh Middle School band.
If you’re wondering… yes, last chair trombone means I was the worst trombone player in the band.
I weighed 68 lbs, had a disproportionately large head, and I played the trombone.
(I was a stud.)
I hated to carry my trombone, so I hated to practice, so I never got better, so I hated band, and eventually, I quit.
Little did I know, however, that I was struggling with the very thing that can define the career and artistry of an actor.
My 68 lbs self did not understand the nature of practice, did not understand the relationship between being having a practice, and having to practice.
I see the same misunderstanding in actors today.
Practice is not the repetition of an activity. It is a mindset, a perspective, and an approach.
Ultimately, it’s the relationship we have towards the things we do. Do you do things to master them, to get them right, or to finish them? If so, it is not a practice. But, when we do things to learn from them, to investigate them, or to enjoy them, we are in practice.
Like law, medicine, and yoga, acting is a practice.
For an actor to have a practice, consider these qualities:
- A practice will emphasize the eternal over temporary. Any activity that leads you towards anything finite is not a practice. Yoga is a practice because it can never be finished. Could you imagine someone saying, “I finished Yoga”. A practice will lead you into questions, and discoveries, not into answers and certainty. For actors, finite language like “objectives”, “tactics”, and “actions” often carry the weight of certainty, and do not lend themselves to a practice mindset. But, infinite words such as “forgiveness”, “cause”, and “allowance” do.
- A practice is not rooted in results. When some thing is a practice, its worth cannot be measured in results alone. Sure, maintaining a practice will have results—you will experience growth, peace, and joy within the activity—but it is not done with the express intention to achieve a result. It is done, instead, for its own sake. The very act of being in practice is reward enough.
- A practice emphasizes depth of process over height of product. In practice, the actor’s process is attended to, not the actor’s product. For example, when an actor rehearses a scene, they are not rehearsing the scene to get it right, they’re rehearsing to deepen their process. It requires a different type of evaluation, a different approach, and a practice mindset.
For an a actor to maintain a life long journey of growth and artistry, they must come to see acting as a practice; a never ending process that can cannot be right or wrong, mastered or completed.
I weigh more than 68 lbs now.
And I’ve seen jazz musicians play the hell out of a trombone.
I guess they practiced…
Do you have an acting practice? Do you have a practice mindset? Do you weigh more than 68 lbs?