Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: Get Resolved


Steven Sabel

Steven Sabel

Writer


A new year, and everybody is talking, tweeting, posting, snap-gramming, and insta-chatting about their New Year’s Resolutions. I find it ironic that we wait until Dec. 31 to get resolved about things in our lives which obviously need resolving every other day of our year, but are then ignored. When it comes to your craft, you better resolve yourself to make some kind of effort every single day to better your chances of success, or you might as well resolve yourself to a lifetime of waiting tables, babysitting, dog-walking, customer greeting, Ubering, or whatever it is you’re currently doing to pay your bills. For that matter, if you have resolved yourself to a life of driving other people around for money while they ask you questions such as: “Oh, are you trying to be an actor?” and “Are you doing that ‘acting’ thing?” then you might as well resolve yourself to Lyfting in a city that isn’t so damned expensive, and leave Hollywood behind you.

If it takes the new year to encourage you to resolve yourself to making more effort each day to advance your entertainment career, then so be it. Nonetheless, if you want to make it, you are going to have to set a new resolution every day. Every day!

So many of us have taken that “day job” to help us pay our bills, and then allowed it to derail our efforts to make a living through our craft. So many of us get overwhelmed by our “adulating” responsibilities that we forget to concentrate our available time and energy toward at least improving our craft. Every day. You have to do the work to get the work.

You absolutely have to resolve yourself to doing at least one important thing every day toward perfecting your craft and advancing your career hopes. If you want to escape Uber hell, then you have to be constantly working toward that escape – one spoon full of earth at a time, if necessary, to dig your way out of the restaurant server servitude and the like.

While you are reading this, ask yourself right now what you have done today to advance your entertainment career, and then resolve yourself to set an immediate plan to do something more before the day is over.

Resolutions are such a curious thing. The word itself has so many profound meanings. We commonly adhere to the most prevalent meaning: to be earnest in a decision; determined. Yet to resolve also means to separate into parts, or to break up; even “disintegrate.” Perfect. Then as artists it should be our goal to resolve the obstacles in our path to success. Separate them into parts. Break them up, and accomplish them one at a time, every day. Resolve to eventually disintegrate them.

Additional meanings of resolve include: to transform by any process; reduce by mental analysis; to deal with conclusively; to clear away or dispel; answer.

Certainly. If you can’t disintegrate an obstacle, then resolve it into something else in order to resolve the problem. Here’s the problem with most people – not just artists: They spend 90 percent of their time doing what it takes in order to provide the means necessary to do what they want to do with the other 10 percent of their time. That may be true for you, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to spend 100 percent of your energy toward your goals during that 10 percent of time available to you to pursue your craft.

Listen to plays or books about the craft on tape, or podcasts about your art while you drive around waiting for that next customer who needs a ride. Read a play or a screen play on your breaks or lunch hours. Turn off the LuLoo at night in favor of practicing a new audition monologue, or perfecting the one you have that hasn’t been winning you any roles lately. Don’t spend time caught in the Flix Net, binge watching the latest series. Watch documentaries about your craft, and the best people who have succeeded in the craft. Learn from them. Here’s something they all have in common: they did the work to get the work.

Get resolved.

In chemistry, resolve means to separate into “optically active components.” Nothing could be more clear. You have to be able to actively “see” the components to each and every goal. You cannot reach any point without knowing how to get there, and crossing the countless points in between. That requires seeing the points in between with a clear plan about how to traverse them. When we resolve an image, we “separate and make visible the individual parts.” These principles of optics are important to pursuing your craft – one facet of the spectrum at a time, if need be.

In music we “resolve” a chord, or a harmony section from dissonance to consonance. If you are not resolved to pursue your craft every single day, you have cognitive dissonance about your chances of making a living through your art. Resolve to create some consonance between your dreams and your actions. Get busy.

Work doesn’t always have to be work. We are creative people. We can create ways to enjoy doing the work. Instead of inviting that fellow actor friend out for drinks, invite them over for a bottle of wine to share monologues. Perform for each other. Give each other notes. Help each other grow as performers. If you are writers, then share some pages with each other of what you are currently working on. Give each other feedback. Advance the draft just one step further…..Every day!

Cartoon of the Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld. Clockwise, from the bottom left: Robert E. Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Franklin Pierce Adams, Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. In the background, left to right, Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt, Frank Crowninshield, and Frank Case, manager of the Algonquin Hotel.

It’s 2019 – the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Algonquin Round Table. The new Roaring Twenties are upon us! When you plan that next dinner party, become your own John Peter Toohey, and create your own Round Table of artists. Do acting exercises with each other, play theater games to keep your skills sharp, and read plays or screen plays out loud together. Plan your next production, Perform scenes and monologues together, and for each other, to learn from each other and improve your craft. Write. Share ideas. Work on accents together.

Resolve yourself to host a theme party for your industry friends. Choose a genre of theatre or film to inspire your theme. Choose a playwright, and ask everyone to come to the party prepared to do a scene or monologue from one of the plays. Choose an accent for the evening, or make it a game throughout the night that every hour on the hour someone draws a new accent out of a hat, and everyone has to do their best to maintain it for the next hour.

We can create ways to have fun doing the work, but we must be resolved to be diligent in our continued pursuit of our craft, and we must stay resolved; whether it is Jan. 1, or Feb. 1, or March 10, or July 29, or tomorrow. And tomorrow, and tomorrow…

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