Keep the Drama on the Stage: How to Get Along with Your Fellow Actors


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A friend constantly refers to me as a ‘Drama King’ much to my annoyance because if there is one thing I have learned from being in a long standing relationship and marriage, is never bring your work or a bad attitude home.  Leave where it is – unless one has to learn their lines of course.  Someone last year (again to my ever lasting annoyance,) referred to me to as a ‘Drama Queen’ again on more than one occasion, which when I became the big bad Fairy Godmother/Evil Step Mother from the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. There was no reason for any of the above, I gave no reason for those name tags, hence my annoyance and anger, which introduced drama into the situations by default.

Simply put, life is full of drama.  No one can get away from that. People should expect people to have some kind of drama in their lives.  We are all human after all (though at times I do wonder).  A successful American television producer once said “There isn’t a ton of happiness in drama,” and that is very true.  Drama is about conflict.  That conflict could be within the individual, between people, be they related, co-workers, lovers, you get the picture.  It makes for entertaining and informative drama.  No one would sit through a film, play or television series if everybody was happy all the time and not conflicted about something.

Now, getting along with one’s fellow actors.  I would be telling untruths if I said I never had an issue with an actor I worked with.  Oddly this has only ever occurred where there has been a lack of leadership on the part of the director concerned. I have only ever experienced this in theatre productions, never in Film and in Television once with an actor who shouted at me prior to filming starting on TV Pilot.  I never laid eyes on him again but given his attitude, that is not all that surprising but I digress.

It is a fact that at some point, one will be working with people who have little discipline or professionalism. Harsh I know but I have experienced it, more so in theatre where (because it is an actor’s medium,) some actors think they have free reign to do what they like. This is only my own experience here and while Theatre is full of many brilliant, talented and professional people, I have only worked with a few of them.  But it has been my misfortune to work with a director who had so little control over his actors that on many of their productions, mayhem ensued. Even during performance nights!

Dallas Travers gives some tips on how one may navigate around this particular minefield, with regard to one’s fellow actors. Me personally, I keep my own counsel and myself firmly to myself, when dealing with difficult folk in life generally but I will let Dallas give her point of view on dealing with one’s fellow thespians:-

What do you do if your longtime actor friend gets her big break before you do? You’re happy for her, of course, but it might bring up major feelings of “compare and despair” for you at the same time.

Obviously, it’s not always easy being friends or roommates or lovers with another actor. There’s some ego involved. Sure. You’re only human. And this industry has an undercurrent of competition flowing through it.

So how can you turn those debilitating feelings into ones that help you progress both in your relationships and in your career? I’ve got 3 suggestions for you.

1. Set Boundaries

I heard a story once about the famous acting couple, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, and how they survived living in a tiny New York apartment. Their secret was hats. They each had a hat they would wear when they needed some space or time alone.

The other person knew exactly what that hat meant and, if they saw their partner wearing it, they would not bother them until the hat was off. It was their own little secret language to get things done or just take a break from each other because their physical space didn’t allow for escape to another room. Genius.

Jessica herself once said, “It’s hard sometimes…but we always manage to give ourselves space. We don’t live in each other’s pockets. We don’t take the play home with us. We do make suggestions to each other, and if we don’t agree we respect each other’s views.”

So, what are your boundaries? Do you want avoid talking shop when you’re out socially? Or maybe you want to set rules around complaining. Perhaps for you, boundaries look like setting office hours for your acting so your life feels more balanced.

Whatever they are, get clear about your boundaries for yourself and then share those expectations with the other actors in your life. And while you’re at it, remember to treat your friend with the same respect you do in a strictly professional relationship. They will thank you.

2. Turn Your Creativity into Creation

If you really want to get along with your fellow actors, staying grounded and focused on your own journey is key. But let’s be real… jealousy and a little competitiveness are often a natural side effect of the business.

Use the feelings of jealousy or envy you have as fuel to create more. Work on your one woman show, write a blog post, pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with your ideal agent. Rather than wallow and wish things were different, take action. You don’t need to wait to feel better to do this, just take action and your feelings will shift.

Action is the best cure for jealousy, confusion or all around stuckness.

3. Celebrate each other’s successes

One tactic for harmony between actors is to give each other kudos whenever possible. It may be hard to do, however, especially when your peers are working and you’re not. But, sometimes, taking the focus off yourself can actually help free you up for more opportunities to come in.

Try taking the high road when you need to and express your joy for your friend’s success, even if you currently feel less than successful. This support will greatly strengthen your relationship with a fellow actor. You could actually promote their gigs. Maybe interview them on your blog or post your pride on Facebook. And, if you need to, ask your actors friends to do the same for you.

In the same way that you need to make a plan for your career success, you can plan to navigate how you will handle your fellow actors’ successes. Set clear boundaries, get creative, and celebrate each other’s successes for harmony on and off the stage. Actor relationships can have happy endings, you just need to be an active participant in the plot.

What are some ways you and your actor friends make it work?

Reproduced courtesy of Dallas Travers (http://www.dallastravers.com)

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