Play vs. Perform

Thank you Sir Laurence Olivier (and  Sam  for sharing this with me so many years ago).

Thank you Sir Laurence Olivier (and Sam for sharing this with me so many years ago).

I love my “Wall of Inspiration” in my office. It is filled with framed thoughts, photos and mementos that keep me grounded and focused on what I believe matters and where I should place both my intention and attention.

One of the quotes I have is from Sir Laurence Olivier:

“Arresting performance by an actor is not a matter of style or rehearsal, but of self-knowledge and an inescapable desire for complete personal exposure. That compulsion for public emotional nakedness drives the actor to ask not “who must I become to create the character?” but to ask “who does the character become because I play it?”

Today I am drawn to the word ‘play’ because it has been on my mind lately when it comes to what I do and how I got to be here doing it. I spent obscene hours in my formative years playing. Thankfully smart-phones didn’t exist and no one in my neighborhood could afford a video camera! I was no doubt performing, but I had no real concept of that at the time. For me it was all play, all the time, and my imagination skills developed, my mimic abilities were born and my confidence to be, as Olivier puts it, exposed, grew with every song I sang into a hair brush, every lie I told a teacher about one thing or another (sorry teachers) and every time I escaped a fairly dysfunctional childhood by going into another world and residing there for as long as possible.

What I see happening today with kids, and not-so-kid-like actors and storytellers is an obsession with performing. Olivier’s version of exposure and public emotional nakedness I don’t believe to be the same as what can be seen on YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat or any other social media site. How fun would it be to time travel and grab coffee with Sir Laurence while showing him a few select viral videos and/or episodes of Housewives Of Anywhere?!

There has been a deep loss in our world and no one seems to notice. We have lost the ability to simply play. I say this across the board, not just with regard to actors, but all people. Performing, if you ask me, will never feel as satisfying or gratifying, as playing and playing will always resonate more personally and honestly than performing.

If life or your job or your relationships or just who you see reflected back in the mirror feels more performance than personal I encourage you to find a way to PLAY! Get a group together and go roller-skating. Turn up the music and dance. Break out the crayons and paper and color to your heart's content. Ban all smart-phones and recording devices and Karoake until you can’t walk – yeah, that hard!

Who are you when you play versus when you perform?