“Something is stirring, shifting groundOur Time
It’s just begun
Edges are blurring, all around
And yesterday is done”
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG
Dr. Nicola Davies, a Senior Medical Writer with a PhD in Health Psychology, and BSc in Psychology wrote in 2012 that an “identifying trait” of an Idealist is: “Their outlook on the future is always optimistic; the world can and will become a better place…”
Sixty-six years prior to Dr. Davies’s learned musings a songwriter—unable to write or read musical notation and possessing only two years of formal education—penned a tune for a community he knew well:
“There’s no people like show people, they smile when they are low…
You get word before the show has started that your favorite uncle died at dawn
Top of that, your pa and ma have parted, you’re broken-hearted, but you go on…”
Written for the musical Annie Get Your Gun, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” was composed by Russian-born immigrant, (Israel Baline) Irving Berlin. His “pa” died when Berlin was eight years old. As Berlin wrote, “but you go on,” Berlin he did despite many challenges to become an American master composer. His songs which include, “Blue Skies,” “Happy Holidays,” “White Christmas,” and “God Bless America” ring with an idealist’s optimism.
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” has become an unofficial anthem for an expansive ensemble of Idealists: show people. People committed to living their profession’s purpose to elevate and enrich the human spirit and condition. Placing “we” before “me.” We turn to show people for rejuvenation when our idealism is depleted.
Dr. Davies suggests we are drawn to Idealists, “because they will go out of their way to help people, and not just their friends.”
People of “show” play a role in protecting the “we” from deleterious mental health according to research.
Edgar Jones, professor of the history of medicine at King’s College released research on the effect of entertainment (show people) has on UK’s armed forces morale and psychological health during conflict. As reported by the BBC: “Professor Jones says studies show that as morale falls, psychological disorders rise…. ‘Morale is so important. It drives what you do and the way you do it. When morale falls off you lose determination, and that’s contagious,’ he said.”
During the COVID pandemic the morale of the world “fell off.” We turned to show people via our phones, computers, and TVs. Show people smiling despite their own morale being near mortally wounded. The business of show was (and nearly continues to be) decimated. To a point of there being no business to employ show people. Hollywood came to a standstill. Broadway, since March 2020, remains dark until at least the end of May 2021. Live, in-person, audience-attended, entertainment (theater, dance, music, comedy) is mostly in stasis. But within the ensemble of show people idealism/optimism persevered. Show people found new ways via video platforms to enrich and elevate our human spirit and condition. Creating solutions to challenges is necessary for the idealistic show person’s reality. Show people live a profession that encounters, almost daily, debilitating challenges professionally and personally. Yet many show people push forward with idealism.
Without show people’s idealism, its game over for them, and for the “we.”
Related: Being an Actor Means Maintaining Idealism
From the New & Expanded Edition of,
Being An Actor – A Tough Love (excerpt, pg. 80)
Do you recall that initial flush of joy following the first audition you aced or during the applause of your first bow taken alone? When your first thoughts of being a professional actor had no obstacles? Possibilities seemed endless? That is idealism. Holding onto your early wonderment is the greatest perpetual challenge an actor faces. Lose your idealism and you lose yourself. Game over.
Idealism is both a burden and an asset on our journeys as artists. We must lug the load of enthusiasm upon our backs when the trail rises. And we ride idealism’s joys on leveling plains and gently rolling downgrades. Dismissive civilians, unsupportive family or friends, and criticizing peers often weigh down our idealism by loading on us doubt-provoking comments such as “What’ve I seen you in lately?” “How come you don’t have an agent?” “Why don’t you have a better agent?” “Why aren’t you famous?” and “When will you grow up and get a real life?”
But the dangerous comments that lessen an actor’s idealism come not from others but can come forth from within the actor. Thoughts like “What is my career?” “Where am I going?” “How much longer until I reach . . . wait . . . what am I reaching for?” “Do I know? I think so. But my sight is sometimes blurred by a blizzard of doubt.”
Doubt kills idealism. An actor must slaughter the assailing dissent before it murders your dreams. Kill the doubt. To keep your idealism alive—that joy you had when first beginning your career—you must cease thoughts, words, and actions that plot to diminish your wonder.
For any actor to succeed, he or she must recall during times of doubt why they first began acting as a journey. What was the lighted joy that sparked the imagination illuminating you forward? Idealism’s flame will flicker during gusts of despair. Protect the flame from crosswinds that threaten to extinguish the glow. No one else but you can keep lit the lantern that is your idealism.
ABOUT PAUL RUSSELL – PAUL RUSSELL CASTING
Paul Russell has been in the entertainment industry for over forty years as an award-winning casting director, director and the author of NEW & EXPANDED edition of ACTING: Make It Your Business. He’s cast for 20th Century Fox, HBO, Broadway, and regional theater. Featured in American Theatre Magazine, Paul has directed premiers, and at the Tony-award recognized Barter Theatre. He teaches master classes at university BFA and MFA actor training programs, and privately online with actors globally. Paul began his career in entertainment as a successful working actor.
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