We are moving through the half way point of our program and we took a break from the studio yesterday to have a visit with Tom Miller, Education Outreach representative from Actors Equity Association.
Beginning the visit with a spectacular view of Times Square from the 15th floor conference room the group then settled into the chairs of the National Boardroom to listen to the history, background and wisdom of the original Actors union.
Students were able to ask questions about the union itself including when the best time to join might be. Issues from aging audiences to the art of negotiation were covered and discussed and the nuts and bolts of the actors life was demystified.
Having been a professional actor for forty years I noted the evolution of the union as Tom patiently explained the pros and cons of union membership. The idea that a union would counsel newbies to avoid the commitment of membership illustrates how the realities have changed. The opportunities to make a living wage at the craft have shrunk considerably and they were not abundant in the past. Our society and its media are changing and the role of the arts and professional artists continues to morph in reflection of the times.
For our part at the Conservatory, we are happy that we have been emphasizing the process of creativity, thinking outside the box, making bold choices, being flexible and responsive to the person sitting across from us. These are the creative skills that may or may not get someone to Broadway... but getting to Broadway is a short sighted goal for the American artist today.
We have a broader responsibility. With the honing of our skills we have a larger job to do than to separate ourselves upon a stage. Instead, we are the fabric of the next generation. The paradigm of vertical growth-- that is, stepping on the one below to get to the next rung of the ladder-- must needs and is changing. Instead, we are beginning to experience a horizontal paradigm where we are being asked to be aware of separation, be aware of our disconnected nature and to begin to truly see how we are of one experience. I believe that in this next cycle of growth it is the artist's job to be more and more aware of themselves as part of a larger consciousness. The more the artist hones the skills of observation, stillness, receptivity and response the more vital the artist becomes to the growth and stability of the larger culture.
This is truly the stellar achievement.