Kaizen. The art of constant self-improvement. Kaizen is a Japanese word that simply means “good change.” In business practices, it has come to be synonymous with the philosophy of constant improvement. Good change is preferable to me than “constant self-improvement,” which sounds a lot like work. Good change seems like a manageable, something I can take a break from on Sundays, or even for an hour on Tuesday, if needed. For a fairly laid-back person, I do swing into full-on Type A “get ‘er done,” “zero to sixty” momentum whenever faced with the awareness that I might not be working to my fullest capacity. Good change, one day at a time, got me to the place of a loving relationship with myself, which then expanded to being able to keep a plant alive, then two small finches, then a dog, and now a deep and wonderful marriage. It took time, but one or two small, good changes over time really mount up.
My acting career has been nothing less than that, and as many of you know I take my own training seriously. I am writing this from NYC. As an actor I feel that I need a reality check every year (as if auditioning wasn’t enough!) on my annual trip to get myself right sized artistically and as a teacher. I take class, see shows, perform, and in general “work out” so that I come back to Albuquerque and Sol Acting a stronger, more effective actor and teacher. Last year I was humbled by seeing performances and working with teachers and students who drove me to know that I can and will show up in a stronger way. I was rewarded by recognition for writing and acting.
This year, I am back for more. Well, more humbling anyway. I have studied again with Anna Deavere Smith, and taken my first workshop with Anthony Meindl who has led me to greater understanding of what I bring to the table as an actor and teacher. In a class environment, I auditioned for the artistic staff of five award winning Off Broadway theaters. I used a monologue from a new piece I am writing and was delighted by what I learned from the auditors. I have seen shows that blew my mind, and a few that made me think, “huh, we do it better in Albuquerque.”
These good changes have led to me to shed yet another layer of self-conscious fear and allowed me to step into a larger presence with joy. The walls came down and my connection to the people around me expand, which brings my work alive in a monstrously wonderful way.
Acting is truly the strangest of all professions. We train to be emotionally available, to be big and subtle simultaneously; to live in the full passion of the Truth of Who We Are, in the given circumstances of a character that on the surface is our direct opposite, using only the words written by someone else. And then we repeat the process exactly, yet always fresh, take after take. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Indeed. In order to survive it, we must practice good changes that open our hearts to more and more capacity for empathy and understanding. Those good changes must be fueled with Love, not the small cap L but all caps bold LOVE. We love the work for the work’s sake, we love the people we do it with, even those that we audition for and the actors we audition with. We love it all and it loves us right back. Without that key ingredient we become narcissistic, competitive and all around tired out. So think about it. Why do you do this? I think I hear your answers.
I can’t wait to get home. See you soon.