Meaningful work is deeply important for actors and other artists.
Tennessee Williams and deep roles
Mare Winningham played Amanda in a stage production of Tennessee Williams’ classic ‘The Glass Menagerie’ at the Old Globe in San Diego.
In an interview, she commented about how rare it has been to find such deep, complex roles.
“Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but so often during the last 30 years, you’re trying to make something better than it is.
“You’re trying to find richness where there isn’t any. You’re trying to find complexity where there is none. You’re trying to make something more than it is.
“Here, you don’t have to do that. It actually makes it easier that Amanda is so multifaceted. It’s a welcome relief.”
The article also notes, “While Tennessee Williams was writing the play, his first success, he also struggled to free himself from less significant — though better-paid — Hollywood work.
“Living across from Muscle Beach in Venice, he confided to his journal that he was working ‘on something abominable — a script for Lana Turner.’ That same June day in 1943, he wrote to his agent, Audrey Wood: ‘I feel like an obstetrician required to successfully deliver a mastodon from a beaver,’ further deriding the MGM project as an attempt to make ‘a celluloid brassiere’ for the buxom star.”
[From Mare Winningham explores Tennessee, by Anne Marie Welsh, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2008]
The need for roles beyond archetypes
Rachel Brosnahan comments in an interview about her role of Abby in the historical drama Manh(a)ttan about the creation of the atom bomb at Los Alamos.
“Women weren’t encouraged to look inward then, and you see Abby coming into her own.
“But it was also an exciting time for women. Abby gets a job and asks questions about her place and marriage.”
Her interviewer comments that Brosnahan finds parallels with the problems confronted by actresses today.
“I think things aren’t changing as quickly as the women of Hollywood would like and deserve. You’re still seeing a lot of these same archetypes.
“I see a lot of prostitute characters—unlike House of Cards, many aren’t very three-dimensional. But I do think there’s a movement, particularly in television, challenging some of these portrayals.”
From interview by John Ortved, Interview magazine, Aug 2015.
Meaning and depression
Finding meaningful work – or making your own – is deeply important for actors and other artists.
In his counseling and books, therapist and creativity coach Eric Maisel, Ph.D. emphasizes the need for creative people to nurture meaning to stay on top of depression.
In his book The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression, Dr. Maisel writes that “Most creators feel miserable if few or none of their creative efforts succeed.”
In our interview, I asked him: “Many screenwriters never see their hard work produced as a movie, and many actors never get to perform to the level they aspire and train to reach. How do you counsel artists like these to make meaning, when they seem to depend so much on public awareness and acceptance of their creative work?”
Dr. Maisel replied: “A lack of success and a lack of recognition are profound meaning crises that must be addressed just as any meaning crisis must be addressed, with all of our heart and all of our energy.”
From our interview: Investing meaning in our art.
Also see Eric Maisel articles.
More to life than acting
Gabriel Byrne comments about meaning:
“So many actors feel that their work is themselves, and if they’re not working, they’re somehow kind of worthless… then life doesn’t have any meaning because they’re not doing the thing that they love.
“But the lesson I’ve learned is that life comes first and acting comes second.”
[From the article Filling your time with meaning.]
[Photo also used in post: Intense but Relaxed – Acting with Confidence.]
If the quality of acting roles is not providing enough meaning, perhaps other forms of creativity will. Winningham, for example, also expresses her creative talents through singing and songwriting.
Also see article: Multitalented Creative People.