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Remember, Acting is a Job, Part 2: Theatre, Not Therapy

We’ve talked about how dangerous entangling your sense of worth with your career can be for your mental health. But how does it affect those around you? You may think, “it doesn’t? How can it? It’s just how I approach my work.”

When actors forget it’s a job, it can have surprisingly wide-reaching effects.

Any form of acting requires collaboration. If you are using acting as therapy or as a reflection of your worth, you won’t be able to be a team player. It’s difficult to trust a castmate who is ultimately in it for ego or a mental health outlet.

Besides, how it feels doesn’t always translate to how it looks. You can be pouring your heart out on stage, really feeling the moment, but if you are focused on your internal experience, oftentimes you won’t be listening to your castmates, much less reaching the audience. If it’s all about how it feels for you, you can’t be a supportive participant in lifting up the story.

Audiences are smarter than most give them credit for. They can tell when an actor is there to feel the story, rather than tell the story. They will disengage.

Such an outlook is not sustainable anyway. If you are putting your whole self on the line and at the mercy of the industry, you will burn out, and end up phoning in work that you could have otherwise invested in.

Besides the quality of the storytelling, the industry suffers when we don’t treat it like a career. Recent strikes have been a testament to what happens when those in power get used to taking advantage of artists because ‘they should be grateful for the opportunity’ or ‘they’re getting exposure.’

Healthy work boundaries don’t mean you aren’t passionate about the art. Refusing to suffer for the sake of the story does not diminish your work. And when the acting community acknowledges that it is a workplace that needs to be accountable for the safety of their workers, we end up lifting each other up and advocating for those who are less able to. Ultimately, the storytelling can only get better when we treat the storytellers with the respect they deserve.

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