Friday, September 19, 2008

An Actor's Perspective

My internship with EMC, lasting over two months, has been a great opportunity to grow as a Catholic and a human being. Spiritually and emotionally it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. When I think back on this experience, it will be primarily with gratitude for these benefits. My internship, however, offered me another opportunity - one that ties in with my career plans.

A senior now at Ave Maria University, I intend to attend an acting school in NY or elsewhere when I graduate. NYC, of course, is the Mecca for theatre, the Bethlehem for Broadway, so to speak. In my spare time, I attended many shows, Broadway and off-Broadway, the tickets to some of which Chris was generous enough to obtain for us, free of charge. I also was able to look into several conservatories and schools in the city, and to research their acting programs. I'm very grateful for that opportunity.

Many good, faithful Catholics and Christians tend to frown upon the arts in today's society, especially the theatrical and cinematic arts. It is not surprising, I suppose, due to the degrading sexual, violent, and language content of so many plays and films. It is true that it is quite easy for these particular arts to become corrupted, but they are also weapons that we, as Christians and prolifers, can use to great positive effect. Witness Bella and Passion of the Christ, both acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. But, then, there are also fine movies without explicitly Christian overtones. Witness It's a Wonderful Life or Schindler's List or even Saving Private Ryan. Any movie that is a good piece of art will reveal a truth about our human nature, and many movies do so. And truth always brings us closer to God.

Just as movies can be put to noble use, so can the vocation of acting be a noble one. It is an art, for those who are serious actors, and not just a quest for fame and fortune. And it is one of the greatest arts, I think - one of the most personal arts, more so than painting or writing or sculpting, because the instrument is not a paintbrush or a pen and paper but oneself. It calls for immense self-discipline and self-scrutiny, but above all it calls for understanding. Understanding of oneself, yes, but also of others. An actor cannot realistically portray another human being on the stage or screen if he cannot extend understanding and sympathy towards his character's situation. Thus many actors become better actors as they become better human beings, and vice versa. Many actors become confused in the extension of their sympathy, granted.

You find many liberal actors today campaigning to save a rare species of African bug, or the trees and moose in Alaska. If only they could have interned with EMC - they would have surely determined to extend their energetic sympathies towards the unborn babies and the trapped, pregnant mothers, who are far more needy of their sympathy than a moose, or a bug, or a tree. Seeing and speaking with these poor, exploited women has changed me, firstly and most importantly, as a person and a Catholic, but it has also improved, in terms of acting, my understanding and humility, confronted with these mothers who are, in many cases, truly beautiful people, but only confused and deceived by society's lies.