My father was a minister with five children. Among his peeves was the dislike of young pastors who were newly-minted fathers giving a sermon about being a parent. Having been through that process several times, my father indicated that the new dad on the block probably didn't have much to teach him – and he kind of resented the new dad for trying.
I think about that now that I come to fatherhood a little later than average bear. I think about the life ahead for my little girl. I want a sweet and merry life for her. By nature, I tend to be a restless soul. My wife, by contrast, tends to be a steady and stabilizing presence. And our daughter, of course, is already her own person in many ways.
Now here's a contradiction. Restlessness allowed a boy from central Iowa to travel the country and some of the world and have adventures beyond price. But that same restlessness of the soul I wouldn't bequeath on anyone. It is equal parts trouble and blessing. So in wanting a merry life for a little girl, am I asking to deprive her of that which will also lead to adventure and a rich life?
Every person, it appears, is allotted their share of tears. For some people that share can run quite broad and quite deep – a great ocean beyond fathoming. I hope neither you nor I get that full allotment. Nevertheless, we all have our share. We cannot avoid that.
And so each of us picks up our own oar in our own way and navigates through the deeps and the shallows, hoping not to capsize nor overturn. The admirable people are those who can accomplish these feats of courage with some grace and humor.
Life isn't for wimps. Life appears to be something that asks for courage. So why should it be any different for the people who want to depict that life in artful or creative ways?
When I was a kid, I wanted to find a way to make acting easier. While acting has never seemed particularly laborsome to me, it was work. And, I wondered, was there some way that I could make the work easier?
Over the course of years -- learning about acting and doing my best to teach others about acting – I've discovered that the "short cuts" are few if the richness of life is to be honored in the work. And that's the tough bit.
Many actors, and even many experienced actors, appear to go for the simplicity of a kind of generalized emotional state – something that can broadly communicate to an audience. The problem is that human experience is both richer and more ambiguous than something that can be encompassed by one word. In my experience at least, I have only experienced a single pure feeling very few times in my life – the death of my mother, the birth of my daughter, the moment I said, "I do." Generally, my experience of life is that feelings get jumbled up and push against each other.
To bring this richness to a viewed platform in a dark room takes yet another dose of courage. The rich mixture of shame, guilt, happiness, delight, lust, disgust, pity, ambivalence that make up most of us is damn hard to quicken every night at 8 pm or for every take.
I'm not advocating any particular technique to achieve this bounty of life. I have no book to sell.
But I am simply telling the truth that acting is hard. It takes courage. There aren't really short cuts. And that this appears to be the case isn't bad. Easy isn't always good.
And I wish someone would have told me that about 30 years ago.
And will my daughter someday take to the wicked stage?
Over my dead body. Amen.