Songs for the Struggling Artist


Thinking About Respectability in Law and Theatre
August 27, 2022, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Acting, Justice, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mostly I don’t worry about respectability. I’m aware that I work in fields that lack a certain respectability and that by operating at the margins, I do not rank high on a lot of people’s respectability scales. I notice it particularly in the comments on anything that proposes providing support for artists (for housing, basic income, anything – “Why should we help these people who don’t even do a regular job for a living?”). I have made a kind of peace with my lack of respectability and can sometimes even revel in it.

Recently, though, I found myself thinking about it – after wrapping up jury service on a civil trial, spending hours watching lawyers. Lawyers, despite all the jokes to the contrary, experience a high level of respectability. Often, immigrants want their children to grow up to be lawyers (and doctors!) so that they know the children have achieved something like respectability. No one shakes their head regretfully when they hear someone is going to law school. It’s a sign they are entering a respectable social class, a genteel profession. There may be a lot of jokes about how terrible lawyers are but no one will be disappointed if their kid becomes one.

After sitting through a week and a half of a personal injury lawyer trying to gaslight us into punishing a doctor for something he didn’t do, I really don’t think law is such a respectable profession anymore. I may not make a lot of money but I don’t try to convince people of lies. I may do things that a lot of people don’t understand but I don’t waste people’s time and attention on spurious situations. I don’t take advantage of vulnerable people and expose their innermost life details to groups of people for no good reason. I do not find the guy who does this kind of work respectable.

The other lawyer, the guy defending against this case didn’t strike me as all that much more respectable, honestly, even though he at least had truth and science on his side. But this man spends all his time pushing back on the specious claims. He’s participating in it, too. If this lawsuit had not been brought, he would not have had a case. None of it struck me as particularly respectable. And yet.

It made me feel my own lack of respectability keenly in a way. I do not usually pay much mind to such things but I thought of all the actors I know, tired of being asked “Oh, where do you wait tables?” when they tell someone they’re an actor so they just decide to go to law school, just to get some respect for a change.

I read a quote from Uta Hagen recently where she explained why she called her book Respect for Acting. Her sense was that there wasn’t enough respect for the work and she hoped to foster some. (I’ll put the whole quote below. It’s bracing and inspiring.) There’s even less respect now than there was when she wrote the book and I suppose I’m thinking about it because it is not easy to live in a culture that does not respect what you do. Being exposed, at length, to the work of a job that IS respected and find it, instead of respectable, somewhat reprehensible is a kind of an unpleasant turnaround. I know this particular kind of law isn’t the only one and there are many many lawyers whose work I admire and am grateful for. (I think of the heroes who showed up at JFK airport the day Trump implemented the Muslim ban.) But – as a whole? I don’t know. Maybe we could treat artists with a little MORE respect and the vast field of law with a little less. It’s not all respectable.

I called the book ‘Respect for Acting’ for a very clear reason. I did not call the book ‘Delight in Acting’ or ‘Love of Acting’ or ‘The Fun of Acting.’ I called that book what I called that book because of the shocking lack of respect that was creeping into both the teaching and the practicing of acting. Now? Forget it. We have allowed so much to recede or languish that I don’t know what I could call a book today. ‘Demand for Acting’ might work. …There was a time when people became bored and they took up bridge or golf; ladies had an affair or had their hair rinsed and joined a book club. Now they want to act. And there are fools with no standards who allow them into classes and theatre groups and tell them to live their dream. I don’t care about dreams. I care about work and responsibility and truth and commitment. You can see how old-fashioned I am. When you are bored or depressed, you might be advised to visit a museum, to look at the art. You are not, typically, advised to pick up a brush and become a painter. It is understood that this is a rare gift, and foolish to presume it might be yours. If your soul is crushed, it might be suggested that you listen to classical music or submit to opera. It is not suggested that you audition for the Metropolitan Opera, or even your local, provincial opera company. You haven’t had the training. But acting? All you need, it seems, is the dream, and there are doors–doors that once meant something and once housed some standards behind them–that fly open and embrace you. And it enrages me. If there is some small society that calls itself amateur or community or whatever, and they want to get up and do plays, that is fine. I’ll contribute money and I’ll support you in the joys of understanding plays, but do not call yourself an actor. Do not think that your dream is similar in weight or meaning to the years of training and commitment that I and all the many actors whose work I love and respect and envy have invested in this art. Respect what is an art. It is not a pastime, and it is not something to get you through a bad time, and it is not something that should be taught to everyone with a dream. The term seriousness of purpose comes to mind. Apparently, only mine.

 Uta Hagen/1996. 

Uta Hagen is doing some highly respectable work on that stage. (She’s Desdemona and look how she’s THIS close to dropping that hankie.) And this production featured Paul Robeson as Othello so it is respectable feast.

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It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

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No Right to Be Disappointed in Me
June 2, 2022, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Acting, art, Art Scenes, dreams, education | Tags: , , , ,

An artist friend told me about a dream they had in which one of their artistic teachers asked what they’d been up to in such a way that suggested great disappointment in this artist’s achievements. The artist was stunned and speechless. For a lot of artists, this is a highly relatable dream. Many of us had teachers or colleagues that felt we had a lot of potential in our youth and while most of them don’t come right out and say, “What happened?,” we can feel their disappointment. They thought we were going to make it and we didn’t. How disappointing for them!

I can tolerate this sort of thinking from bystanders. For all the people in my high school classes who told me to thank them in my Oscar speech, I do not carry your expectations heavily. I never thought I’d get an Oscar. I am not sorry I don’t have an Oscar and I’m not worried about my old classmates’ possible disappointment that they never saw me make an Oscar speech. My teachers, though – those responses have always carried more weight. They wanted me to succeed. I wanted to make them proud. It’s a bummer to feel I’ve disappointed anyone.

But the thing – when I look at this from the outside – at other artists’ feelings of disappointing their mentors, I just get angry at those mentors. Do you know how people succeed in the arts? (I mean, aside from being born to celebrities.) They succeed because someone helped them. No one, not even the children of famous people, gets anywhere without help from someone further up the ladder. Success in the Arts is not the wizardry it seems to be. It’s not like a young artist has some kind of magic that will lead them to make it. There is no enchanted sparkle teachers can spot or not spot. A teacher cannot wish a young artist out of obscurity. You can’t just hope your student will make it. If you’re invested in them, you have to actively help them. That’s how they do at Yale and Juilliard and that’s how those places maintain their hold on the American Theatre. Teachers introduce their students to people who can help them. They give them opportunities. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve done this to the best of my meager ability for the students I really believed in. There weren’t a lot of those – but the others, I have no right to be disappointed about. If I didn’t try to help, I get no say.

I had some amazing teachers. Some of them really continued to show up for me long after most people would have given up. They did what they could but when you don’t have a lot of power in a field, there’s not much to do. But if you DO have power in a field and you don’t try and help the students you were invested in? You lose your right to disappointment. It’s hard out there and you know it. If you gave someone an opportunity and they tanked it, okay – you can be disappointed, that’s fair. But you can’t be disappointed in your student for failing to get lucky.

We all hope the magic star will hover over the heads of people we believe in but magic stars are rare. They’re so rare they don’t even exist. People who end up with success end up with those successes because someone helped them. If you’re a teacher, you can be one of those people. Go ahead and help an artist out. You can feel proud of both the artist and yourself! If you’re not one of those people, you better rein your disappointment in, that’s not fair.

Oh wow. Look at that! That tree is going to be the next big thing. I hope it has its Oscar speech ready as it is clearly marked for greatness!

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In Praise of the Monologue

Despite having written and created an audio drama podcast made up entirely of monologues, before now, I’d have told you I hated monologues. When casting actors, I would never ask for a monologue for the audition. I felt sure they could tell me nothing about what an actor would do in a show. I know I have delivered a few rants on the subject before. I could not fathom why preparing one classical and one contemporary monologue became a norm. As a director, I found them useless. My feeling was a monologue performance could only tell me whether that actor could do that monologue performance and not much more. It told me nothing about what they were like with other people, what their choices might be like for my show. Why did training programs rely so heavily on them when most directors I know prefer to see sides of the work they’re casting?

Today, I finally get it. I find myself intensely grateful for the way theatre trains actors with monologues. I feel like I finally understand why everyone bothers.

Because I’m in the middle of casting the second season of my audio drama, I have gotten a fresh perspective on what theatre folk do and what it takes for us to do it. This didn’t happen with Season One because every single one of the actors was a theatre person (among other things, of course). But the main thing was, I could give them pages of text and they could read it back into a microphone in such a way as it all made sense, that had a rhythm and a music to it. Every single one of the actors gave their work a shape and an arc and a series of beats. You would not believe how little direction I gave these people. I did not need to. They all just did it naturally. I thought at the time that it was just because they’re all good actors, but I think now it is specifically because they are good theatre actors.

Because Season Two is set in another country, I have to draw from an unknown acting pool and I began to listen to a lot of acting reels from voice over actors. They are incredibly skilled. They can do animated character voices. They can make a bank ad sound like silk. They can stretch sound into moments you would not believe. I have found myself impressed. Believe me, I have tried reading ad copy before – it is a lot harder than I ever imagined. These folks have skills. But do they have the skills I need?

I’ve dipped my toes into the film world a little bit more this year and one thing I’ve noticed about the difference between film and theatre is the rhythm of the making. Most everything in film is in small bits. You do one line in a multitude of ways (or the same way over and over) and then you move on to another one. If you had a long passage of text (unlikely in a film, but, just for the sake of argument) you wouldn’t shoot the whole thing all at once, you’d get two lines here, two lines there, another from the other side and so on. The rhythm of the speech would happen in the edit. It only matters what each individual line is like, not the whole. The whole gets created later.

In the theatre, however, you have to say the whole thing, all at once. You need a plan of attack. You become a one person band, orchestrating the speed, the tone, the ups, the downs. When you’re giving a speech in the theatre, it’s all you. You’re it. It is a much more sustained experience.

It turns out that reading a monologue is more than just saying the words in a reasonably correct way. It is taking an audience on a journey and that is what we train actors for. That’s why we teach monologues. I apologize for every bad thing I ever said about monologues. It turns out that training actors to deal with large swaths of text is exactly the training I need as a creator right now. It may be one of the theatre’s defining characteristics actually.

Theatre educators – thank you for continuing to teach actors to do more monologues, even in the face of cranky people like me who didn’t understand the value before. Please keep doing it.

This isn’t actually a monologue. But it LOOKS like a monologue and that’s the important thing. And, like a monologue, if I gave it an actor to read, they could handle all that text without too much trouble.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Actors Are Not So Replaceable

We were watching the 4th Season of The Expanse – a show that takes place in the future where a lot of stuff happens in space. (We call it Space Stress – as in “You up for watching some Space Stress?”) The woman in charge of Earth was on a space shuttle talking with a man who seemed to be an advisor of some sort – maybe a vice president or secretary of education? “Who’s that guy?” we asked, since we’d never seen him before. Then the woman in charge of Earth (Chrisjen Avasarala is the character’s name.) introduced him to someone as her husband and we were, like, “What happened to her previous husband? Did he die? Have we taken a dramatic jump forward in time? Has so much time passed that her sweet husband died and she had time to remarry a younger busybody one?”

We were very confused since the show made absolutely no mention of what the deal was. It took looking up both the actors on IMDB and eventually finding an article about it to understand that they meant this guy to be same character as the one before. He had the same name, the same back story. It was supposed to be the same guy.

They were pulling a thing that they do on soap operas where they just change actors, without any reference to it. So, one day (in the 80s, just for example) you can be watching the soap opera, Santa Barbara, for example, because you really like Robin Wright’s performance and then, for example, suddenly her character has someone else’s face! (Yes, this happened. Yes, I’m glad she went on to do cooler things but my middle school self is still mad about the sudden switch!)

In the case of The Expanse, this switcheroo happened because they’d been canceled on one network and before they got picked up by Amazon, the actor playing the husband had another gig and was therefore unavailable. A challenge, for sure.

But there are a myriad of other solutions to this problem! Why did they think it was better to try and fool us? The second guy appears to be at least twenty years younger than the first one. (He is! He’s a full 18 years younger! I looked him up! He’s Gen X and the previous guy was a Boomer! There’s a whole generation in between them! The wife was born the same year as the first guy!) The new guy has an entirely different physique. They dressed him differently. AND, most frustratingly, they wrote him a completely different personality.

The first husband wasn’t around much on the show. He was a quiet presence who took care of their grandchildren and mostly offered love and support. He was the character the Earth ruler would send away to keep safe. The new husband was ALWAYS around, always chiming in or criticizing and the grandchildren they’d both been so concerned about were nowhere to be seen. He’d be an interesting character on the show if he weren’t supposed to be the previous guy. As a trusted advisor to Avasarala, he makes total sense – as her husband, he’s baffling. And I spent much of the show distracted by it. When the husband complained that Avasarala had changed, I was like, “Her?! Come on man. It’s you who’s changed! You are a totally different person! In every way!”

I just don’t understand why this show, which is good in so many ways, went so far off the rails with this choice.

They took us to a whole new planet in a whole new galaxy but they couldn’t maintain one logical human relationship? Why? Why? They could have done this EXACT story line if this guy was her gay best friend in an advisory role, for example. He could be her minister of New Worlds who we get to meet for the first time. They could have killed off the first husband, if they wanted to – and he could have been her second. They could have told us her husband was taking care of their grandkids on some other planet for a while and let this whole dumb story line go.

But instead they wrote an entirely new character in the place where a beloved old one was. Honestly, the husband had almost nothing to do in previous seasons but he’s such an extraordinary presence, we worried over him anyway. The new guy is a very good actor – but he’s betrayed by the position they’ve put him in by having him do something so out of line from what we knew the first guy to do.

This show doesn’t do a great job of writing dialogue for personal relationships. Whenever the characters try to have a meaningful talk that isn’t about space or interplanetary politics, it tends to get hilariously cliched and clumsy. Seeing how they seem to think one human can be exchanged with another without any hiccups helps me understand why those personal chats aren’t as good as the rest of the show. They just aren’t that interested in that human stuff. I mean, it’s fine. We watch this show for its space stuff, its alien stuff, its future gazing, interplanetary exploration stuff – not the human stuff so much. However, it just would be nice if they realized that different actors are different people and allowed for the audience to experience people as consistent humans. They can do better.

Unless – maybe aliens are writing this show and they don’t know the difference! Maybe to them those two guys are exactly the same. In the eyes of an alien, we are all alike and infinitely replaceable.

I made a poster of an alternate show title. Hey, if they can replace an actor, I can replace the title, right?

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Paulina Forgot to Cancel the Mariachi

When I started watching the Mexican TV show, House of Flowers, I was immediately struck by this one character’s way of speaking. She spoke so slowly and strangely, I thought maybe the actor was a non-native speaker – which would have been odd for a show about a family. I was so curious about this actor’s voice, I looked her up and discovered that, no, in fact, she is Mexican – though she trained in the US and worked at Steppenwolf, no less.

I had no explanation for this voice but I was still intrigued. Then a few episodes in, I had another question about this show, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and suddenly discovered that this character’s voice was a phenomenon. It had captivated people around the world and even become a social media viral sensation.

I learned that Cecilia Suárez, the actor, brought a version of the voice to the show and the writer/director encouraged her to take it further. It is, apparently, modeled on the speech of some upper crust Mexicans they knew. So it traveled from a highly specific population to social media challenges around the world. (My favorite crossover is the actors from the Cable Girls in Spain doing this voice from Mexico.) Netflix based their advertising campaign for Season 2 of this show on the popularity of the character Paulina’s voice. It’s huge, apparently.

The thing that delights me about this story is that the center of it is an actor’s choice. An actor looked at this character on the page and felt like she had a take on it. She tried a bold choice and her writer/director didn’t just approve it, he asked her to take it further.

Another thing I love about this is that she’s about my age. So this celebration of an acting phenom is not of some fresh faced newcomer but an experienced veteran of the craft. She’s a Gen X phenom, not a kid. It is such a good example of why we train. A novice would never even consider such a thing.

And it’s not just a silly voice. It’s a style grounded in the given circumstances of the piece, in the guts of the character- in such a way that it reveals things about her we wouldn’t otherwise know.

I also love that this celebration of an acting choice is happening in a comedy. Usually, it is only drama that draws admiration from the outside world but this comedy performance is shaking up those norms.

I know there are likely many things I’m missing about it. I’m sure if my Spanish were better, I’d catch details upon details but as it stands, I can catch a lot – just from sound and tempo. To even be able to notice a vocal choice in a language I don’t really speak feels extraordinary.

It just feels like the perfect model for collaboration in the dramatic arts. When we teach acting, we are always talking about choices. When we praise an actor, we praise their choices. When we’re looking for someone with some spirit, we choose someone who makes bold choices. But it is very difficult to find an instance where we see this in practice so vividly. Part of the reason awards tend to go to actors who have crying scenes is that it is the most visible demonstration of someone acting. But there are choices happening all the time that are just not obvious.

Cecilia Suárez’s voice choice is clearly a choice and a choice that was developed and nurtured in a collaborative process. Both actor and director took a risk in going with it. It’s odd! A more skittish director would never have approved it and a less bold actor would never have proposed it. It’s a risk for both of them. But they went forward with it and it seems that everyone loved it. There are memes of this actor now. There are videos and tweets and TikToks and Instagrams. This voice is a hit. And I find myself delighted – not just by the voice itself (though it is a delight) but by the worldwide celebration of an acting choice. It’s something this actor is doing, on purpose. It is something she created. It’s not a famous person she’s imitating or a disability she’s pretending to have. It’s a bonafide acting choice. It has become one of those things that would help me explain what an actor does. So many times, acting seems like it’s just a person being themselves in front of a camera saying other things than what they usually say – but Cecilia Suárez is acting. She made a big choice and now we get to enjoy her acting her face off with that extraordinary voice.

This line has become so famous you can buy fan-designed t-shirts of it.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Should I Quit Acting Because of X?
May 23, 2021, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Acting, advice, art, business, movies, musicals, Quitting, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Since joining the acting subreddit, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts with a similar theme. They boil down to, “Will X prevent me from having an acting career?” or maybe more accurately, “I’m X or have X or did X. Should I quit acting?” In this equation, let X be a quality or physical attribute or life history.

I have such complicated feelings about these posts, mostly from young actors looking ahead at a possible professional life in acting. Because on one hand, yes. You should absolutely quit acting and do something else if that’s an option for you. Absolutely you should, if you’re looking for conventional success, run in the opposite direction of an actor’s life. No question.

But on the other hand, the reason to quit is not whatever you’re imagining. You shouldn’t quit because of your science degree or your scars or your background. It won’t be THOSE things that are obstacles to having an acting career. The obstacles to an acting career are everything. Everything is the problem. The problem is not whatever flaw you perceive yourself as having (or whatever some asshole teacher might have said to you). The problem is that it is a very hard business that almost everyone struggles in, in one way or another. The obstacles to an acting career are being born to non-celebrities or not having access to a generous trust fund. The obstacles are a lopsided system that values money and connections more than talent. The obstacles are a commercially driven capitalistic theatre scene that is not accountable to the public in any way but the question of whether or not they will buy tickets.

One thing I did not understand as a young actor is what an ongoing hustle working in the theatre would be. I imagined that I would get one acting gig and it would lead to another and that would lead to the next and so on until I ended up on Broadway. And once I was on Broadway, that would be it! I would have made it and I would be on Broadway until I died.

I think the moment I fully understood this wasn’t so was when my friend (and acting colleague) closed her show on Broadway, the one featuring several movie stars, and the next day went back to her catering gig. It’s possible there were a few actors in that show who went straight to another acting gig. There may have even been one or two that were slated for another show on Broadway. But for most of them, they closed the show and then went home to hustle up the next job. Possibly even the movie stars had to do this. (Though they surely had a lot more help from their agents and their next job wasn’t food service.)

Any acting career is a cycle of working and not working and an acting career is full of dumb reasons for not getting a gig. Mostly, you will never know. Sure – you could lose a gig because of your hair. But you could also GET a gig because of your hair. You cannot know. And while casting directors or agents may tell you some opinion about your appearance or your background, it’s not actually the casting director or agent who gives you the job. They are gatekeepers. And they are not always right about what the people inside the gates actually want. They might tell you a person with glasses like yours will never be cast but then you meet the director and the glasses spark their imagination and you get a call back because you were that interesting one with the glasses. So much of casting talk is about making people more average, more like the conventional but in my experience of running auditions, I have much more often cast people because they were fully themselves or quirky in a way that captivated my attention. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Sure, there are those who have no imagination and just cast the person like the last person who played Juliet so they’ll fit in the costume from ten years ago. That’s a thing, sure. But the artists out there, the visionary directors and writers, are looking for something more. After a full day of looking at people who all look the same, you, with your X walk in and maybe you change the view.


On the subreddit, it feels important to be optimistic and supportive of these young people’s dreams and just answer the question they asked. Should they quit because of their appearance? No. Absolutely not. They should quit because it’s a heartbreaking business but not because of whatever their imagined obstacle is. Is it possible that their obstacle, their X, will make it even harder? Very possible. But, I know some people with all the advantages. They are Adonis-looking white dudes who have talent to burn and no obvious obstacle, who gave the business their all for decades and are hustling now just like they were at the start. There is no guarantee. Not even for the children of movie stars, who generally have the most legs up of anyone.

Should you quit if you’re not the child of a movie star? If you’re looking for security, then, yes, you should quit.

But will you? That’s the question. If you’re tenacious and determined, no cold water of reality will stop you – and that is what you really need in this business. Not the “right” hairstyle or the “right” body or the “right” background but just some talent and ability to keep showing up and giving it a go. But still – I will only say these things here. In conversation with these young aspirants, I will only give them all the examples of people who had “X” and did it anyway. This is partly because I feel that whatever X represents, it is always something we need more of in theatre. We need more people with X, whatever it is, because they don’t see that represented onstage or onscreen and think they would not be chosen because of that. That’s a sign that we’re failing in representing the diversity of humanity well. So, if that person – with X – can ride the roller coaster of life in the arts, then they should not quit. They should get in here and make things better. Are there possibly fewer opportunities for them? Yeah. Possibly. But there are few opportunities period. Get on in and ride the roller coaster and don’t let X stop you.

Each generation re-makes the business. Your colleagues now can, and will probably, be your colleagues later. If you all have X and you want to get together and make an X movie or an X play, that’s good work! No one with X will worry about X in the future because you kicked open the X door for yourself and made room for those with X behind you. That’s what I want you to do, instead of quitting.

Someone told these actors they should quit because of those Xs. That someone is very silly.

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Snot Acting
January 13, 2021, 12:40 am
Filed under: Acting, art, Creative Process, movies, theatre, TV | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m going to talk about snot today. I’ve been trying to formulate thoughts about this abhorrent coup attempt that just happened but snot is a lot less disgusting so I’m going with snot right now.

Why am I writing about snot? Well, I was reading an article about the best movie performances of 2020 and they were talking about Viola Davis’ work and said, “Davis has never been hampered by vanity, as past scenes of snot-dripping emotion attest.”

I have thoughts. Not about Viola Davis. (Aside from she’s amazing and we’re lucky to have her and she came from the stage so, also, we miss her.) I have thoughts about these kudos for snot acting.

Here’s the thing about snot pouring down an actor’s face when they’re crying. It is NOT a lack of vanity on an actor’s part. It is bait for awards. Because of responses like that article. It is, in fact, a kind of showmanship – an expression of pride in one’s ability to cry real tears and snot real snot. One might call that a sort of skill-based vanity. Or maybe it’s just something encouraged by those watching.

Anyway – the reason I am not impressed by it is that I have seen people cry in real life and have also cried myself, believe it or not, and real people generally do not let snot stream down their faces when they cry. Children do, up to a point – but grown-ass adults will almost never just sit somewhere with snot on their faces for minutes at a time. Likewise, most people watching someone cry are unlikely to just sit there watching snot drip all over their face without handing them a kleenex or a handkerchief.

To snot is human but only an actor will leave it there on their face as a sort of trophy of their tears. Most of us wipe away snot and tears when we cry. Not because we are vain or even ashamed but because….we just do!

Why do I care what those screen actors do to earn their awards? I don’t know. I suppose I chafe a little at the way actors on screen are praised for realism when things like snot acting are not, in fact, human behavior. It is a choice. Maybe it’s the actor’s choice, maybe it’s the director’s, maybe it’s the awards committees, maybe it’s a ploy for Oscars and Emmys – but it is a choice, a stylistic choice and I feel like it should be acknowledged as such. In my house, it’s become a performance category and we laugh every time we see it. While someone is acting their snot out, trying to show us tragedy or pain or something, we can’t help giggling and saying, “That’s some high-powered snot acting right there.”

I’m not saying an actor can’t snot on screen. If you’re crying and you snot, that’s normal – just, you know, treat it like you would if you snotted in real life. Pull out a kleenex or something. Use your sleeve! The back of your hand! Anything.


We don’t fetishize crying in quite the same way on stage so it’s not something I’ve encountered in the theatre. Actors crying on stage just try and clear their faces so they can keep acting. They’ll get it done any old way they can so the show can go on.

But on screen, they’re probably waiting for someone to call cut before they can deal with tears or snot or whatever on their faces.

Hey – being an actor ain’t easy. Crying for a living isn’t a walk in the park. I’m not trying to make it harder for folks. But critics and awards people might want to slow down their praise for snot acting or we are going to be looking at a lot of people’s snot for years to come.

You know what this crying girl in Pietro Rotari’s print would do if her nose started dripping? She’d use that handkerchief, of course!

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me identify new trends of acting?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis




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