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  • Sonya Cooke

Using Calamity as a Call to Create

Don’t let social distancing become emotional distancing. Use this outbreak to breakout of your current boundaries and limitations by fighting through this isolation to connect not only to others in alternative ways but also to connect to your craft and yourself. Although this is a tremendous global emergency and a tragedy for so many afflicted people and their families, I personally insist upon an outlook that is hopeful. We mustn’t allow this virus to attack our spirits.

Therefore, I have compiled a Top 10 list of recommendations for actor folks who aren’t sure how to continue to work on their craft while social distancing and staying home due to illness or cancelled work, classes, and shows:

  1. Sign up for an online class - Most schools like mine are taking the leap to this platform, and the technology is very good. We are able to model online classes very closely to what the in-person experience is. Students can still do group and partnering work and classes can also focus on prepared and rehearsed scenework. When this pandemic is over, you don’t want your acting tools to be rusty. Nor do you want to miss your call to create due to fear of the unknown.

  2. Innovate by creating an online, live performance - Again, the technology is there! You could create and rehearse a production that you produce on online platforms, like Zoom and Skype. Get your friends and colleagues together, pick (or write) a short play that can be adapted to online and run a rehearsal and performance process. It’s so sad to hear about productions closing due to these necessary precautions. With a little effort and gumption, you can keep your show alive. But this wouldn’t just be for you. People will hunger for live connection with others. It won’t take long for everyone to tire of Netflix and Hulu. Create something vibrant, and during these dark times I believe you will find an audience.

  3. Create live online meetings for reading and/or discussing plays and theory books – I, too, have a stack of books I haven’t gotten to. There are many active Facebook groups going on right now due to social distancing; you could join a group and invite folks to get involved with your book club or study group. This could become a great resource down the road when you want to engage with like-minded artists on other projects.

  4. Work on your monologues – As I type this, I can imagine there may be some resistance to carving out time to do some solo work on your material. But when a bunch of free time is thrust upon you, it’s up to you to make savvy choices about what to do with it. If you are not ready for the next audition you have, then this is the time. ALSO, you could set a deadline for yourself and either shoot and post your monologues online. Or, again, you could invite your online community to attend a live performance of your monologues.

  5. Update and polish your marketing material - This may seem like another snoozer, sorry, but again this task often sits at the bottom of your to do list. It was a busy year; likely you got behind on putting your best foot forward. Schedule the time to update your profile on Actor’s Access, reformat your headshot, update your resume, etc. You will wish you did when things pick up again :)

  6. Read said books! – Go along with doctor’s orders: Incubate … by enriching yourself. Not everything needs to be a social moment. Perhaps you’ve even lost touch with what it feels like just to be with yourself? Enjoy the silence of reading something inspiring while you witness your creative mind clamor with imagery, stories, and characters. (Shameless self-promotion, check out Seven Pillars Acting!)

  7. Finally watch the classic movies you haven't gotten around to – Especially since you are likely going to exhaust iTunes’ recommended films, it’s time to take in the timeless stories that define the film medium. Familiarize yourself with actors whose iconic performances are still a part of everyday, or industry, conversation. It never looks good to not be hip to references either on set or in social situations; let that fear drive you to watch a black and white film (if you need motivation beyond the simple merits of the film, of course.) Also, these performances can be a source of inspiration as you craft more characters. Learn from the best.

  8. Take this forced introverted time to do some mental and spiritual housecleaning – 2020 is the year of clear vision. I vaguely thought this might be true before coronavirus, but now it feels spot on. So much of my life has already been put in perspective by this outbreak. All the things I took advantage of, all my petty worries… my inner world reflects the outer, and it’s all getting a reckoning. (Anyone relate? Just me?) Despite the tumult, it all feels healthy. Meaning, this time of reflection leads me to inspect my mind (although my husband jumps in, too, sometimes), and it’s resulting in a clearer head, leading to focused vision. Of course, I can’t see past the next 8 weeks, but that’s ok. My favorite tools for this work are journaling and meditating. Dedicate yourself to a practice of writing every morning for 10 minutes and doing any kind of meditation for another 10. Message me if you need suggestions.

  9. Remove any guilt from needing to focus on the basic needs of life - In times of crisis, arts are the first to go. And that is ok... for a little while. I’m a human before I am an artist. As my father would say, there are no golden eggs without the goose. Of course, that is too euphemistic a description for my work, but you get the point. Sometimes actors work so hard at being actors, their bodies and spirits get depleted, and then there is no there there. Speaking for myself, I am also sad to see so many opportunities I was looking forward to evaporating into thin air. Who am I now without all that activity? Aren’t I still me? What else can I look forward to in my day? Let’s recalibrate our values; likely something got out of whack.

  10. Don't run away from this experience - This is rich material. And at some point, artists are going to start telling stories about this crazy time in our lives. Document it, save it, run toward it. This is raw human experience like we've never seen it before, and we are the ones, lucky or unlucky, who get to live it through.

Everyone, please take good care of yourselves and of each other. Life is so precious. I’ll keep posting, but I am always available to connect on a more live level. You can message me if you need a human connection; we will get through this together.

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