One of my late (and great) acting coaches, Al Mancini of The Beverly Hills Playhouse – he passed away in his 70’s about 3 years ago – once told my class that the word “Enthusiasm” comes from the latin for “energy from the Gods.” A quick jaunt over to Wikipedia provides something closer to “possession” from a divine being, while dictionary.com adds that it might be defined as “any of various forms of extreme religious devotion, usually associated with intense emotionalism and a break with orthodoxy.”
I have been self-proclaimed a geek. I have worn sci-fi makeup to movie screenings (oh Darth Maul, you were the best thing in The Phantom Menace!). I enjoyed collecting all 200 episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and love talking passionately (often with the use of my hands) about music, musicals, art and puppetry. I have been to Renaissance festivals in costume and when someone I know and love the work of performs, I want to market the hell out of them on my own time. I say nothing is better than enthusiasm, that feeling from inside – or outside sometimes – that spurs one on to do over the top, seemingly ridiculous, often foolhardy things. What I liked about the above dictionary.com reference is that enthusiasm often creates a break with orthodoxy.
We as artists need to have enthusiasm, that feeling that you *have* to do something unique, passionate, often financially risky (as in the pursuit of being an artist in the first place), and do this in the face of the often discouraging orthodoxy of one’s family, school, church, community or friends. The enthusiasm can start with a general “I want to do this field of artistry” and grow (or narrow) towards a specific “I want to do this work in this city with these people and discover this about myself” statement.
And we have to feed this enthusiasm despite the things other people say to us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t allow our enthusiasm to get in the way of logic, but we shouldn’t allow the things people tell us to create fear. Fear gets in the way of enthusiasm, usually because the fear we create is baseless or based on falsehoods. We fear talking to our agents, we fear bringing a new idea to a Producer, we don’t put our inner enthusiasm out for all to see because we fear that it will be rejected, ridiculed, and harmed. But real enthusiasm is from the Gods, remember? Enthusiasm comes from a never-ending fount of energy, impervious to any real damage. I have a friend who just got her play picked up and produced out of the blue, after years and years of development hell. But she was still enthusiastic about the project, and I’m sure the producers felt that!
If you’re enthusiastic about a project, a role, an idea – talk to other people. Your enthusiasm is probably similar to another person’s enthusiasm. I read blogs on a daily basis of enthusiastic people, read the Facebook feeds of friends who I know are pro-active and enthusiastic, and am now gluing images of my inspirations on a large piece of paper on my wall to remind me where my enthusiasm is meant to be focused. Remember, enthusiasm is like a virus – it spreads.
Pic of my then-boyfriend Pete, at the 1st 3am screening of The Phantom Menace.
Hell yeah, I married him! I think that’s my hand upper right.
“I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing” – William James