Hello fellow actors, filmmakers and theatre-creators and humans! This posting is a little outside our usual remit but I think the times call for it - if you’ll permit a little digression I’d like to talk about the role of activism in our creative lives.

Segue: Listening to one of my favorite film podcasts I recently heard a movie review of “Machines” which included a brief description of a scene where a boy was falling asleep over and over again at his monotonous and dangerous factory station. My heart broke - here was somebody’s son, working underage in terrible conditions at a dangerous and abusive job.

I mentioned my upset to someone later that day and she chuckled, ‘Ahh, new mom syndrome..  Hell's bells yes, I am a proud new mother (and typing this whilst my 14 month old son enjoys his afternoon nap.) Perhaps to offset the inevitable lack of sleep and me-time I can see this as my new special power – a heightened way in which to view the changing world that my boy was born into. I've certainly had plenty of time to feel charged up by our changing political and environmental climate, the refuge crisis and modern day slavery, about women’s issues and men’s issues, global terrorism and domestic hostility, about over-consumption and under-appreciation... a lot to re-examine.

But whether you’re a new parent or not, chances are you’re more than ever interested in how activism and political engagement can play a role in your life, and by extension your career as a creator and artist.

A running theme of recent blogs has been the importance of telling your own story, which often includes the decision to accept and embrace your own heritage, look, (dis)ability, uniqueness etc. It stands to reason that there are values and a moral code that we've formed and with which we view the world. As we go through life we have an opportunity to learn and re-evaluate our own values, and as artists we're in the unique position of creating a lasting visual piece of work which can be informed by those values and shared with the wider world.

But we can get caught up in the day to day challenges and low level anxiety of our industry - I should self submit and self-tape, I must read more plays, must market myself more effectively, must find a better survival job to pay the rent! - and the idea of doing much else politically outside 'the hustle' can feel daunting and more of a 'nice to have'.

So I'd like to build upon what many of us have been feeling after the last 12 months of unexpected political developments around the globe: a hunger to engage and do SOMETHING.

Let's first remind us of what we already know, that getting involved doesn't have to be an all or nothing affair, or a cynically motivated one. 

Rather, we can become the better versions of ourselves even through the tiniest of political engagement 'baby steps', and from our cultural standpoint as storytellers we can use this growth to better contribute to our work, our communities and industry in all kinds of ways. And how cool that the root word of activist is the Latin actus, "a doing, a driving force, or an impulse" - actors are taught the importance of this on Day 1!


We all have impulses – so how parlay the hunger for activism with our lives as actors?

Here are some ideas that have resonated for me:


This isn’t just about traveling to Laos or Ethiopia, it’s about taking a different route home for a change, walking around your town or city and better understanding how different types of people are getting by. Take yourself out of the day to day. Venture three stops further on the subway and look around.

Too often the nature of the acting business is so demanding that we develop tunnel vision defense mechanisms to keep up with the daily casting breakdowns, emails, nurturing of relationships and of course the all-encompassing co-dependency we have with our phones and social media engagement.

It's easy to get so caught up in our stories and carefully fabricated marketing that we forget to venture into unknown territory!

As an environmental pattern interrupt, just try to see how often you can switch off, head out of your home turf without apology or judgement.


This means listening first without presumption and interruption.

Any drama school or acting class will have put you through your paces at some stage around giving your scene partner your full attention. See how often you can do this in your personal and work life - not head half buried in a screen but with the generous gift of your whole heart and connected spirit. By doing so see what unexpected information you pick up from your family, your lover, your bank clerk hairdresser grocery teller... 

And how much you can curate your listening of media and external voices? Have a go at choosing what news and opinions you’re deciding to ingest and process. If you’re able, see if you can spend a week without being in reaction to your smart phone alerts – turn them all off and instead actively choose which programs, articles and media outlets you’re engaging with, of your own volition. No doubt you’re a smart and switched on tribal member of numerous creative outlets, podcasts, news and sm feeds – but why not take the time to decide who you’re going to pay attention to and then maintain that connection for as long as you can? What can you learn from this?

You may find out how quickly you’re getting bored or distracted, which can speak to whether the voice you're listening to has the power to grip and sustain your attention. If you're getting itchy feet, why is that? Is the program or commentator doing too much or too little to engage with you? Are you waiting for the next stimulation high that comes with a 'Like' or another type of electronic interruption?

The risk of staying self-involved online..

I'm not here to preach against social media, but do take the occasional time to stop yourself getting interrupted during a mental or creative flow, especially in those times you've deliberately tuned in to another person's experience.

As a global citizen you'll feel a responsibility to stay informed and to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and the people you’re trying to understand. As actors and artists we need to maintain a disciplined command over our attention span, not just to see through our creative endeavors but in order to foster authentic communication. It's our job to inhabit the lives of other people, and that starts with true listening without prejudice.

SPEAK UP!           

There are countless ways in which to do this and no doubt you have a lot you'd like to take action on. If you've listened and have something to say, all bets are off.

Let yourself harness all the unique reasons why you feel strongly about something - what differences are you embracing and where do your strengths lie? How can you contribute?

Actor Adam Driver was so moved by his experience in the Marines and his frustration at early discharge following injury whilst his peers continued on tour, that he founded Arts in the Armed Forces, an organization which provides cultural events and live theatre to the military population. This group has built upon the incredible and unexpected amount of crossover you find between actors and the armed forces.

But of course you don't need to be famous or form a new company or movement in order to stand up and speak out. You can certainly champion these but as a first step it's important simply to claim your own voice, elegantly and without apology - to yourself and then your community.

It might begin in journal form, in prayer and meditation, and from there be directed outwards in your daily interactions.

It's very easy to feel pressured to keep our thoughts to ourselves, chiming in to conform with social norms and the opinions of others even if you don't agree - but if you can speak with eloquence and elegance, letting yourself have an honest conversation is one of the biggest gifts you can contribute to our society. (This doesn't mean walking away from the fall-out of a difficult communication!) Part of 'organizing, not agonizing' means skillfully interacting with people you may not agree with, sharing opinions so that you can have a healthy and constructive debate.

To generalize horribly, actors tend to aspire to a dramatic high and seek to make monumental strides; this is awesome when we do it but don't forget the importance of proverbial baby steps. In her TED Talk Julie Chappell demonstrates how we can harness the power of communication to change attitudes - small changes day by day which can create immeasurable shifts of global consciousness over decades.

When you develop who you are and what you stand for, you have an opportunity to speak authentically and feel connected to the very fibre of our global humanity.

 The future of activism in a pussy-grabbing world | Julie Chappell | TEDxLSE


We are only as strong as the weakest part of our community and country; we cannot live in a peaceful and prosperous community if a significant number of inhabitants are lacking in essential ways. For example research has shown that if a percentage of a country's children is undernourished or in other ways abused, this will directly and adversely affect the fates later on of the other children in that same country. We are interlinked in such a vital way, and participatory citizenship starts with your engagement on a local scale.

You're likely to be doing a whole host of things already - helping out family and friends, volunteering your time and energy and money where you can. And Activism can simply mean being the person you want to work with and live amongst. Many people have realized that cannot rely on our political leaders to look after the things we care deeply about, so however you choose to do it, never discount the smallest acts of leadership you can take. Allow yourself to find time to train, and teach, and in the process keep engaging in the wider political conversation.

For some comic relief, Last Week Tonight used its final show of 2016 to detail several ways in which US citizens could choose to support each other in such times of drastic change - a useful reminder of how engagement can work in practice, even if time is limited:

Finally, you're a talented actor and creator and you have an obligation to share your work!

Every profession has a unique thing to contribute and in the words of Meryl Streep at this year's Golden Globes, "An actor's only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like." By acting on our impulses, engaging politically in our community and contributing to the world around us we learn and draw from other people's stories and understand the impulses that drive all kinds of human behavior. Engaging in your career with your full authentic self and voice that comes from living a full life inside and outside of our industry, will truly allow you to let your creative freak flag fly!

Be well, and if you have time to drop a line I'd love to hear how you've engaged as an activist - in your creative life or elsewhere! I'm sure this blog has only echoed what you already know and for my part it's provided a good kick up the backside -  a reminder to get out there and do my son proud (who by this point is trying to stuff my wallet with Cheerios :-)


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