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Each element provides specific insights and skills to nurture resilience in an actor's unique vulnerability
Presence allows the person to check in with how aware and present they are to themselves, their relationships and their working engagements. It helps ground the person in a current sense of emerging identity that is distinct and prior to each new role to be played with.
Presence is about becoming more aware and attentive to what I notice, without judgement, in my own self/body as I connect to the world and as I prepare to perform in my role.
Perception is often regarded as the same as sensing something. But the earliest intention of the word comes from Latin – percipere – “to lay hold of, grasp”. Perception, in this context, is about active interpretation, making meaning, not just attending to something.
Consciousness of perception also provides a great opportunity to play with experiences of ‘stuckness’ or ‘lostness’ in our identity – we can ask ‘what do I perceive in both myself and in the world and how do I make sense of my experiences?' 'What do I presume about the world and my place in it?'
Training expectations and professional expectations contribute significantly to post-dramatic stress or emotional hangovers. In the profession of acting over the past 100 years or so there has been a preoccupation to create real characters, with real and powerful feeling, to enact the ‘real’. The problem is that there hasn’t been much attention, in the West, to training people how to let go and cool down after these intense peak performances that may traumatise performers and, sometimes, audiences.
Preparation investigates how does my prior training, as a professional, and my socialisation, as a human being, affect the ways I behave in response to my experiences and interactions with others.
The process of creating a ‘role’ is something a human being does, and in the doing, the ‘role’ does shape them – but it would be incorrect to equate the individual with the role as other than a useful ‘shape’ for performing actions in the world. Nevertheless certain roles OR contexts in which we play roles may seep into our awareness of choices we make in the everyday – and we may consciously or unconsciously make steps to shift our preferences to new, desired ways of becoming in the world.
Process is about how do I choose to actively carry out performance tasks, as a professional, and still remain responsive to my ongoing experiences in relation to others i.e. remain connected but not overwhelmed.
The valuing of re-connection is crucial to Partnership in determining who are the people who can support me and ground me as a professional, and, are those whom I can also support.
I draw upon the work of Dr Judith Jordan and her colleagues at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute (2004) who propose a practice that they refer to as Relational Resilience, based on the premise that “relationships are protective in a wide variety of risk situations”. These are not training techniques specifically applicable to performing a role but rather ongoing practices (habits) that create an appropriate and healthy state of readiness and resilience for when the actor takes on the challenges of each new role.
In the Actors Wellbeing Survey (2015), the industrial context was the 2nd most impactful factor for actors having difficulties ‘letting go’ and ‘unwinding’. Too often, when matters of wellbeing and especially mental health come under public scrutiny, the onus for change eventually falls upon the individual worker rather than the collective system and complacent culture. But we are both part of the solution and part of the challenge. This is where setting boundaries and not compromising values is possibly most difficult – because of professional expectations and, often, vested interests – but setting boundaries needs to be part of cultural change, so the burden doesn’t yet again default to the individual.
Perspective is an invitation to critically review what are the social/cultural/economic/political contexts of the profession in which I need to make choices about how and when I will make connection with others.
Play is integral to each of these 3 pairings. Play is about the 'give and take' that can exist in each of the above elements. And play is also about engaging with each element with ease, playfulness and joy. Its key question is how do I remain flexible and playfully risk-taking, open to new insights in each of the other 6 values and practices?