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Three big truths about becoming an actor

Written By Aké Kibona

This summer, I had a fantastic opportunity to get a paid acting job with Apricity Theatre, a company in the Southwest. I worked with them to create an Adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ as a touring production for the summer. The gig lasted for over a month, and I am so thankful that I could get that opportunity. However, there were certain things I was not ready for. Things that aren’t explicitly ever told to people who want to enter a creative industry, such as theatre. Therefore, let me share with you the three big truths of Acting that I learned over the 5 weeks.

1. Acting IS a Job – Don’t minimise it.

I’d hoped that by this moment, everyone could respect the creatives as an industry, however that seems not to be the case. People don’t respond positively when you tell them that you’re acting for the summer. Faces pulled are confused, perplexed even; they don’t understand that acting is indeed a job. They are even more surprised when you tell them you’re studying for a non-acting-based degree. It’s at this point that they feel disappointed and think you’ve wasted your summer instead of preparing for your real career. Even though they will definitely go home to Netflix, they don’t understand acting as a job off-screen and at a smaller stage. Before the likes of Streep, DiCaprio, and more met the big lights of Hollywood, they had acting jobs, where they’d gain experience before progressing in the industry. In the same way, we wouldn’t doubt the plausibility of a law intern, we shouldn’t doubt the mention of a young actor.

As the weeks went by, I noticed people were more shocked that acting was something you could get paid for if you weren’t in a big theatre or on the silver screen. This really begs the question: why don’t we treat beginners acting the same way we treat a law or banking internship? Surely since the entertainment sector is a huge contributor to society, governments would try to help fund the young in a more efficient and effective way.

2. Acting is tiring.

Of course, we all know that acting is a job, and many who are in the industry or plan to enter the industry would have already been in productions prior, so should understand the nature of the job. However, I had never been in a play where rehearsals were every day and especially not one where we’d do around 40 hours of rehearsals a week. It’s intense. This is why when people would say, “Imagine getting paid for something you’d do for free,” I had to clarify that I would not volunteer 40hrs/wk. of acting for free because that’s a lot of energy to compensate for. Comments like those helped me understand the value of energy and work. Before, I used to believe that acting was a piece of cake because I loved it, but I quickly realised that acting is not a piece of cake; it’s tiring and sometimes stressful. However, it is only because I love it that I allow myself to go through that level of exhaustion and stress.

The tiredness it can induce is both physical and mental. The physical stress on your body occurs because most of the day, you’re up on your feet blocking scenes, experimenting with movement, and doing constant repetition. That’s a tiredness that can be prepared for. You can see that one coming. However, there were times when there was also mental tiredness. I found that tiredness creeping as energies constantly had to be kept high, and sometimes that was harder than others because bad days do come. Yet, despite this struggle, we push through and keep ourselves going in order to finish the job.

3. Imposter Syndrome is not your friend.

Imposter syndrome occurs when you achieve something, but you feel like you don’t deserve it and you’ve faked your way in. Imposter syndrome will hit most people no matter what industry you’re in. That feeling that your successes are a fluke, or a mistake is so common, and many students say they experience it. Physically, for me, it created a constant doubt in everything I did. The feeling that you don’t deserve the place you have and even if you do deserve it, someone else could do it better than you. Then during the span of university, the imposter syndrome slowly dissolves as you start becoming more confident in yourself. You have that time to let yourself feel nervous before the confidence kicks in again.

I found that whilst acting imposter syndrome could be detected in your movement and it didn’t encourage a good performance. With the time pressures and various other deadlines, you must complete, feeling like a fake becomes an inhibitor to progress. I feel that trying to act without a constant doubt in my mind is constraining and didn’t allow me to delve into the job initially. Naturally, I came across as more reserved and held back with sharing ideas and experimenting with movement. It was only until I got rid of that imposter syndrome that I was able to fully realise my potential. It’s the main way I learnt that confidence in your art is the main foundation for doing well at a job and the way to destroy your imposter syndrome.

I never thought that I could learn so much within 5 weeks but acting for the past month has made me realise so much more about acting. Even though it’s something I’ve been doing since I was young, I still managed to be surprised and come across issues I haven’t met before. These challenges were originally barriers, but I managed to learn from them and remove those barriers. The main thing I learned was to not go into anything thinking it’s going to be easy because you’re used to it. There’s always something more to learn, and barriers can pop up from anywhere. You just need to learn to face the barriers and turn them into learning points.

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