Falling With Style: A Professional Actor Prepares

Helen Laroche gives her take on the age-old question: what the hell does ‘professional actor’ mean, anyway?

Since my last post, I’ve spent a lot of time writing a grant proposal for Theatre Bay Area’s TITAN award. No, that’s overstating it. I’ve been *thinking* about writing. Alright, in truth I’ve just plain been avoiding.

I’ve been avoiding this yucky fear that’s snaked it’s way through my heart and risen to the surface of my mind: that we are never, ever, ever getting back together I may never, ever, ever be a professional actor.

Now, the definition of “professional actor” is nebulous. Loyal readers of this blog have read Stuart’s stab at defining it in the comments section of a previous SF Theatre Pub article by Marissa Skudlarek (who makes her own good points). Melissa Hillman talked about her proposed definition recently on her blog.

In the past few weeks, I’ve learned a sneaky thing about my definition. My definition changes to encompass whatever I’m not currently pursuing.

Am I trying to choose projects that are fulfilling, whether or not they pay? Ah, a professional actor must be someone who focuses on paid work, and therefore I am not one.

Am I trying to choose projects based on their ability to sustain me financially? Well, a professional actor must be someone who doesn’t sell out, and therefore I am not one.

Am I choosing projects which will give me an opportunity to practice my new acting tools in a community theatre-type environment? Gee, a professional actor would never use a live stage as a training ground, and therefore I am not one.

In other words, I’ve been using the fact that there is no single definition to cut myself down at every turn. Why you gotta do me like that, self?

So, with that realization in mind, I’m seeking yet another definition. Like porn, I know a professional actor when I see one, but it’s hard to put my finger on. (That’s what she said.)

The people I consider professional actors do not leave me wondering whether they’ll get it right tonight. I see the care in the work that they do, but only because I am inspecting it closely, looking for the seams. I see the connection they have with their work. They’ve done their homework.

I’m reminded of a quote that a beloved college professor shared with us often: “An amateur practices until he gets it right; a professional practices until he can’t get it wrong.”

If that’s not my definition, it’s pretty damn close.

Helen is currently practicing for Sunday at the Bar with Steve, coming up on Sunday, March 24 at 7pm at Martuni’s. Learn more here.

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