On the Actor as Athlete (Or the Artist as Performer)

Guys. I will never be old. I watched this video a few weeks back and decided that.


Seriously. That woman is 92 years old. And still dances better than me and handles lifts, holds, drops…

You know what?

I’ll bet she still practices (or did at that point). I’ll bet she doesn’t sit for 8-10 hours a day. And I’ll bet she gets enough sleep and has a decent diet and smiles at people.

On the Actor as Athlete/Artist as a Physical Performer

If working in a physical theater clarifies one thing, it is the importance of a clear connection of the mind to the body for the best possible performance.

This carries over, however, into more verbal, physically subtle acting. The performers who do this excellently have cultivated a particular connection between their body and their creative centers in the brain.

Any writer worth her sauce can probably tell you that she writes better and more consistently if she’s getting enough sleep.

My point is that the actor is an athlete. The artist is a physical performer. Solid, provable connections between creativity and physical movement are emerging quickly as neuroscience goes to work on us.

In working toward a Unified Theory of All My Stuff, the connection between optimizing human performance and excellence in art is glaringly obvious in regards to physical theater, and still glaringly obvious even in the most non-physical art forms I participate in.

There’s a myth out there that successful artists are constantly burning the candle at both ends. Sure, maybe they have a few late nights, and maybe even go for a few years burning themselves out regularly, but inevitably this causes the quality of their work to slide.

The fact that artists in America have to do so many jobs at once perpetuates this myth. How can we expect our performers and makers to create and perform great things if they are constantly worn out?

The Bottom Line

We as artists need to insist on better from ourselves. As in take care of your sleep. Don’t pretend you can burn out all the time and still do great work. Take care of your diet. Stop thinking that you can eat garbage regularly and still do great work.

Sure, you might be able to burn out and eat crap and still pull off some brilliance a few times, for a few years, but this isn’t about doing it that one time. This is about killing it sustainably and consistently. Not just making magic now, not just producing excellence now, but when we’re 92 years old.

Straighten out your diet, get a week of good sleep, consistently. Move every day. Smile more and upgrade your mindset. See what happens to your work.

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