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BREAKING INTO SHOWBIZ
By David Vando

Practicing the Three P's
of Acting

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David Vando photoBy mastering these three simple suggestions, you'll be ready for that "lucky" break.

David Vando (Right) is the owner/director of Models Mart Ltd., a resource center based in New York for the modeling and acting professions worldwide. He is also the author of Shakespeare for the 21st Century, a paperback book about how quotes from the Bard can and should be used in the new millennium for everything from corporate mottos to epitaphs. Vando's current project is Song Of The Lark, a musical dramatization of the passion of St. Joan, and Conversations With The Dead, a play that takes place in the spiritual imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous creation Sherlock Holmes.
      While still a scholarship student at Columbia University in playwriting, David assisted director Jack Gelber in off-Broadway productions of
The Kitchen (1966) and Indians with the Royal Shakespeare Company (1968). After graduating, he went on to do an English adaptation of the Threepenny Opera for the Lake George Opera Company (1971); a musical adaptation of Love's Labor's Lost for the Folger Theater Group in Washington DC (1974); and Bugles At Dawn, a musical play based on The Red Badge Of Courage at the ATA Chernuchin Theater in New York (1982).
      His comic play about the last years of Moliļæ½re's life,
The King's Clown, won an international playwriting prize sponsored by Northern Michigan University (1978). It was performed at the university and subsequent productions followed in Chicago (1979) and London (1980 and 1999). His play The Gospel According To Leonardo Da Vinci was translated into German and performed by the National Theater of Weimar (1992). His play Eroica, about Beethoven overcoming his deafness to complete the 9th Symphony, was performed in London at the Tabernacle Theater in 2000. When not writing, David has worked as an assistant director.

So, you want to be an actor... why not! All the world's a stage, you know. However, if you choose to be a player on the world's stage, there are some things you may want to consider before you start. Like all of life's endeavors, you need the three P's. The first "P" is passion. Without it you will never last as a performer. Actors must be passionate, sensitive artists. If there is anything else in life that is equally interesting as a career choice for you, pursue that one and forget about being an actor. Acting is an extremely demanding profession to learn and the competition is intense. Most actors are not employed as actors most of the time. Most actors must find other ways to support themselves if they are to survive. Most actors have to face rejection most of the time and must have that passionate love of their art to sustain them. There is no one way that the passion for performing is kindled. Sometimes it comes from a parent or teacher. Sometimes it is something that you unexpectedly discover. How it strikes you is not important as long as you are "stage struck."

The second "P" is preparation. As an actor, you must come to work prepared and willing to completely dedicate yourself to your art. You must have the physical stamina of an athlete, the grace of a dancer and the mental agility of a poet — no easy task. But the truly great actors, especially the ones who have the ability to do strenuous live theater, rely on this ability. They have very acute minds that lead them to make dramatic acting choices that bring the written word to life. Even if you are naturally gifted, you will have to nurture and develop that gift if it is to blossom.
     
Assuming you are passionate about acting and are willing to work hard and have the talent, where do you begin? Explore what you can do in your local area such as community theater, church groups, or plays at school. If there is no role for you to play in a production, volunteer to work backstage so you can watch and learn how the rehearsal process works. Volunteer to perform in charity events. Call your state film commission and see what films are being shot in your state; perhaps you can work as an extra and get an idea how films are done. Maybe there are people in your community who teach singing, dancing, fencing or acting. Take whatever classes you can. I got my first acting lesson in Shakespeare for free by volunteering to clean up the teacher's acting studio.
     
If you do not have access to any training, do not let that stop you. Begin by teaching yourself to act by reading books on acting. Actors must be good readers. The best actors I have known are very well read. Get help at your local library or contact the Drama Book Shop in New York (800-322-0595); they have everything you need. Read and see as many plays as you can. Look at films from the point of view of the actor. Were the actors' choices good ones? What would you have brought to the role if you were doing it? Be sure to watch special arts programming on Public Television, especially from England, where the love of theater is as strong today as in the times of Shakespeare.
     
If you feel you are ready, try to showcase your talent. Models Mart sells various books that list legitimate talent agents around the country. Try to get an audition. If you live in a very remote area, make a video showcasing your talent and submit that to agents. Most important, continue your schooling. If you are a good student, try to attend a college with a good drama department. Eventually, your studies should take you to New York. The best schools, teachers, and variety of opportunities for beginning actors are in New York. Come to New York first and really learn how to act, then you can go off to Hollywood and become a "star" if that is where your heart is.

The last "P" is for perseverance. Without it you will not go far, no matter how great a talent you may be. You must be patient as you work hard and not let the daily dose of rejection deter you from your life's objective. No one can guarantee you will become rich and famous. If this is your main goal in becoming an actor, you may never be "successful." But if you pursue the art of acting because it enriches your soul and every part of your being then the pursuit of your career will be its own reward.
     
I have worked in the theater almost all my life. For more than 35 years, writing plays and musical theater pieces has been my passion. A few years after getting my Master of Arts degree in Drama from Columbia University, I wrote a play called The King's Clown about the life of Moliére, the greatest of all French dramatists. I submitted the script to well over a hundred different theaters, actors, producers, and agents for more than a year in the U.S. and England without any success. One theater returned the script with the comment that the language of the play was "impossible." At this point, I began to feel discouraged and sorry for myself, and I felt like giving up on the play. Nonetheless, I persevered. I submitted it to a play contest sponsored by the University of Michigan and it won first prize. It was performed at Northern Michigan University, and subsequent performances followed in Chicago and London, and there was never a problem with the language being "impossible." No one can help you if you give up on yourself.

That's showbiz...


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