Making Magic: Why I Act

Apr 5, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Attitude

Why Do We Act?

Do you ever read books about professional acting? You know, the ones full of advice on how to get an agent or what to look for in a headshot artist? If you’re anything like me, you’re downright addicted to them. Reading different people’s perspectives on the business is like crack for me. Seriously.

Books like Chris Agos Acting In Chicago or Brad Lemack’s The Business of Acting (two of my faves) generally contain interviews with multiple casting directors, and their points-of-view always tend to vary. However, the introductory chapter in each of them usually says something along the lines of: “Congratulations, you’ve chosen one of the most rewarding yet challenging career paths out there,” followed by, “If you’re going into show business to get rich, you’re better off looking somewhere else.”

And they’re right, aren’t they? I dunno about you, but the struggles of life as a “starving artist” have been drilled into my head by parents, teachers, and mentors alike since I first expressed interest in acting as a career.

So, assuming we’re not here to become rich and famous, we have to ask ourselves a simple question at some point: Why the heck do I want to be an actor?

“For me there is something special about the transient relationship between the actor and audience,” explains Chicago-based actor/writer/comedian Deanna Moffitt. She goes on to say, “I love to move an audience–to laughter or tears, to think a different way, or to find a new understanding.”

Good call, Deanna.

I tried to answer the question for myself and came up with the following:

In theatre, someone hands us a script and says, “I have these words. These words need a voice to speak. They need a body to move. They need a heart to come to life.” As actors, we have been gifted the unique ability to hear the human voice where there is nothing but ink and paper; To discover the physical presence of the human body in mere words; To allow them to infuse us with unbridled joy, bitter sadness, and the entire spectrum of human emotion. And then we get on stage and invite an audience to listen with us. To watch with us. To live with us. We say, “I have experienced something so beautiful, and I want to share it with you.” That, to me, is absolute magic.

Notice, there’s nothing in there about agents, networks, unions. That kind of stuff stuff isn’t why I act, it’s how I act. For me, there’s a pretty important difference between the two. Lately I’ve been so caught up in the business side of acting that I’ve felt myself losing sight of the joy of acting itself.

So what’s your point, Joe?

I recently auditioned for a role with Devil’s Thumb Productions. They’re doing a production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, and I wound up booking the lead role, CB. Awesome, right?!

Here’s the thing: Devil’s Thumb is based in Boulder, Colorado. The role will require me to be out West from April 26th until the end of May. This would be the biggest role I’d have played since high school, and one that I would most definitely love to have on my resume. The character would be a delightful challenge fo me (and I’m a huge masochist when it comes to acting challenges). On top of that, It would give me a chance to spend some quality time in my hometown.

Naturally, with such a convincing list of “pros,” I eagerly accepted the role.

When I told a few of my actor friends here in Chicago, they all asked the same sort of questions: “A show in Colorado? Aren’t you trying to act in Chicago? How does this advance your career?”

I thought hard about the answers. After all, it’s not a paying gig, so it’s certainly not for the money. It’s a non-union show, so there are no AEA points in it for me (not that going Equity is something I’m interested in at this point). It doesn’t directly promote my brand in the Chicago market. So why do it?

Allow me to refer you back to that big, bold chunk of text above. That’s why.

Yup, there’s still a ton of work I need get to do in Chicago. And guess what! It’ll still be here waiting for me in June!

But if you’re looking for me in May, I’ll be in Colorado making magic. Doing what I love…

Living the dream, y’all. 🙂


Joe Von Bokern is the Chicago contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.