15 Minutes a Day by Jeanie Hackett, Artistic Director

Committing to act for 15 minutes a day sounds like the easiest thing in the world.

This is your life, your love, your living.  How could an actor NOT commit to acting for 15 minutes a day? But an ongoing discipline may be the hardest thing in acting to achieve.

First, being given the chance to act seems to be owned by someone else, not you.  And then, everything that hangs around ACTING – “will I have a career, am I any good, do I have what it takes? –are the hardest things in the world to look in the eye on a daily basis.

Every actor knows that work begets work, and this does not just apply to the lucky time you are hired to do a job. Acting everyday increases your confidence in yourself for the times that count, creates a feedback loop on a daily basis that gives you both optimism and cognizance of your own strength and weaknesses, keeps your instrument in tune and at the ready.

Fifteen minutes actually is a long time.   Lots can happen in that time.

The actor who works 15 minutes a day, usually, gradually, allows that fifteen minutes to grow to a half hour or even an hour, but that’s beside the point. Conquering the fear of jumping into the work, daily growing your skills, putting in motion a process that occupies your conscious and unconscious mind throughout the day, is the way to claim the work as YOURS — not as something conferred occasionally from the industry on high. It’s how you own your talent, keep in touch with the sources of your work.

Jeanie moderatingAre you doing a play? Shooting a film? Taking a class? That takes care of your fifteen minutes a day.

Auditioning does not. An audition is conditional; your fifteen minutes a day on the material of your choice is unconditional. Auditioning often is accompanied by a A what do they want mindset; your fifteen minutes put you in a what do I want? mindset.

 

HOW TO DO IT.

Make a list of roles you’d like to work on – they can be your dream roles, they can be the kind of roles you never get cast in, they can be silly things you fell in love with when you were a kid (Scarlett O’Hara or Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music or Capt. Picard from Star Trek). (Yes, you CAN work on these roles! Just writing this is making me want to work on Fanny Brice from Funny Girl, the movie I saw 17 times as a teenager). They can be characters from favorite novels. They can be poems by Matthew Arnold or Mark Strand. They can be scenes from comic books.

Find the scripts if you don’t have them. Buy them at Sam French, transcribe a scene from the DVD, pull a book out of the library. They are any ideas, words or music that you long to   express out loud with your voice and body.

Come up with about 8 or 10 different things. Put them in a special place in your creative workspace. Decide on what time of day works best in your schedule.

For the first month, commit to 15 minutes a day, five days a week. 15 minutes and ONLY fifteen minutes, no matter how much you’re dying to do more. Set an alarm to go off after 15 minutes and then STOP your work. By doing thus, you build an appetite for the work. An eagerness to get back to it the next day.

Make sure when you are working that you read out loud, that you get up out of the chair, that you use your voice and body. Don’t sit and read silently. If you end up wanting to read a full script or a play, make that another part of your day; your fifteen minute commitment must involve your body and your voice. Don’t be dogged, don’t be obligatory, don’t be programmatic, don’t be methodical. Just suss out what you feel like working on, on any particular day, based on what’s up with you.

This is ONLY for you, ONLY for your own fun and inspiration. It is NOT homework. It is not about memorizing — although as you get excited about working on something, you get excited about memorizing. If you’re in a bad mood you may feel like working on Hamlet, or if you’re in a good mood you may feel like working on Hamlet. Or you may feel like singing a Frank Sinatra song. Doesn’t matter what you do. Only matters that you do it.

15 minutes a day. Give it a shot for six weeks. See what happens.

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