Monday, September 1, 2008

Neither rain, nor sleet …

The postal service motto “Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night …”, about always getting your mail delivered (no matter what), applies, from my vantage point, to the first week of September of any year, although this year is, admittedly, special. Neither presidential campaign politics nor weather disaster will stand in the way of the annual back-to-school brigade that happens this week at colleges and universities across the country. Whether first year student or final year senior status, the new academic year is usually, always, filled with anticipation, hope and a bit of anxiety about the school terms ahead. But you forge ahead anyway.

While I can’t directly help with the angst I refer to, if you’re heading off to (or back to) your studies in acting, theatre, performing arts or related field, I can offer up a subjective perspective that I hope will be helpful.

You can never undervalue the importance of a solid academic base. But, at the same time, the focus of academia is, obviously, education, not (always) how that education applies to the real world.

If you’re a student, as you return to class, so do I. About to begin the fall semester of The Business of Acting class at the Emerson College Los Angeles Center, I am about to face the challenge of taking well-taught and well-trained students beyond the safety and comfort of the arena and the environment they have grown comfortable in.

The challenge is in not discounting their academic training, but in teaching them how to apply that experience to the real world, as they begin to consider their transitions from students of the performing arts to careers as professional, working actors.

In a business where the best trained, most talent, highest qualified candidate will not get the jobs based only on those credentials, it is critical to explore how what you know and how your passion for the career you seek can turn you into a pro-active business person who will approach the launching of a career in stealth-like and strategic ways.

My students and I will explore all of the options available to them that they already know about – and then they’ll get exposed to a sizable collection of new ideas and new approaches that they weren’t aware of before. Yes, they must be talented. But, they must also be highly skilled and then learn how to apply those skills to the bigger picture of the career journeys they will soon embark upon.

This applies to you, as well.

So, just because you’re not in my class, doesn’t mean you can’t be my student. Here is what you must do:

Be inquisitive! Ask questions in your classes about how the material you are asked to study applies to the real world in which you want to live in and act. Respectfully challenge your teachers, your professors, your fellow students and yourself. It’s important to learn not just theory, but application and perspective.

In the end, it is the personal perspective you arrive at that will be the most beneficial to you. But, perspectives, like people, like careers, are works-in-progress. You must leave room for change and adaptation as you grow and as you are exposed to newer ideas and opportunities. You must be a smart actor. But first (and always), you must be a smart student.

My comments won’t (necessarily) get you an A in any class. But, I can guarantee that if you start thinking outside the “box” now and if you begin contemplating how you can apply what are learning in class (and in performance training) to what happens beginning the day after graduation, you will be better able to plan for, execute and maneuver all of the twists and turns of the incredible journey that will soon follow. "Smart student" doesn't necessarily mean great grades. But striving to achieve greatness begins at home, is expected in school and is a requirement throughout life. At least that's my philosophy. Long after teachers are grading you on your performance, we need to grade ourselves on how well we are doing all along our journeys of life (and career).

To the incoming class of 2012, congratulations on departing on your four-year transition from young adult to young professional. To those of you with your graduation in sight, relax. The spring is many months off. Don’t rush this last year. Embrace it for all you can. And for those of you in between, be mentors to those new arrivals (remember how daunting your first year at school felt at first?) – and challenge yourselves as often as you can beyond just the requirements of any class or course you take. An “A” is nice, but planning for and thinking about how what you have learned and your experience at school relates, in terms of the bigger picture of your lives and careers, will get you much more.

Oh, to be a student again … I envy you.

Brad Lemack

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My daughter has just headed off for her freshman year at an east coast school to study theater and acting. We know this is an uncertain business, but she is extremely passionate about studying and pursuing this. My wife and I really appreciate your comments. I'm going to pass a link to your Blog on to her. Thanks.