Do you care about the work itself?
If you could regularly do creative work that you cared about and enjoyed, and you could do so while living a comfortable life, would that be enough?
Or are you doing it in order to get something else? Fame, money, attention.
My experience is that most people would say they love the work itself, and I think they truly believe that. But then the choices they make reflect something different — perhaps something they don’t even recognize as a contradiction. Maybe their agent changes their focus, or being in the midst of a careerist group of friends. Maybe they have been taught to think of themselves as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. For instance, if you think that having your work seen by the “right people” is important, you’ve lost sight of the work itself. If you think it is better to do uninteresting work at a prestigious theatre than do interesting work at an obscure one, you’ve lost sight of the work itself.
After you have forgotten all your preconceptions about how theatre is done, your next step is to remember why you got into it in the first place. What were the pure motives that made you fall in love with the art?
When I get to a point where I am starting to forget why I started doing theatre in the first place, I try to get myself a ticket to a high school musical or play. I go early, and spend time sitting in the auditorium listening to the excited conversations of family members and friends of the cast in the audience — the buzz that fills the house before the lights dim, and the shhhh’s and hush that falls when the lights finally go down and the curtain rises.
Usually, the show isn’t all that great, top be honest, but I don’t care — the sheer energy coming from the stage fills my heart and reminds me yet again that it is the joy of pure creation that is what is most important.
It is so important to hold onto that feeling, to avoid the cynicism of careerist thoughts and instead hold the heart of theatre within your soul. When you do, you communicate that feeling to the audience and help them remember when they, too, cared about something with no thought about how much it paid or how it would advance their career. And that’s a gift, one that people will come back for again and again.
As Stella Adler wrote in Respect for Acting, “The thing that makes you say, “I want to do something” – that is the beginning of talent.”