Inspiration for Actors- The Sherling Backstage Walkway at the NT
As actors, we’re always seeking inspiration. Whether it’s attending a workshop to learn something new or to connect with other industry professionals, seeing a heralded actor work on stage or screen, or reading a recommended play, even when we’re not working, we’re working.
Luckily for us, London and the rest of the UK is rich with opportunities to learn. There are historic sites to visit before acting in a period drama. There is our brilliant range of theatre, ranging from the opulence of the West End to the unique tradition of pub theatre. And throughout the country, the range of accents alone is enough to keep an actor busy learning something new for months, or more likely years!
Another inspirational learning opportunity that I discovered recently is the Sherling Backstage Walkway at the National Theatre. The Sherling Backstage Walkway offers visitors views into the busy production NT workshops for set construction and assembly, scenic painting and prop-making. It is a behind-the-scenes look at how a large-scale theatre like the National really functions and it’s pretty amazing! Access is from the Gallery Level in the Dorfman Theatre Foyer and it’s absolutely free, just walk up!
You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the workshops, in one, a massive house set being built for When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, starring Martin Crimp and Cate Blanchett (in her National Theatre debut!) The props workshop houses everything from thrones to flowers to old-fashioned telephones… anything and everything that might be used in an NT play. Along the walkway, there are examples of set pieces and costumes, with more information about, for example, how they achieve a burnt look to wood or how the wigs and costumes are created.
While you’re there and in a behind-the-scenes frame of mind, check out the (again, free) exhibition Playing with Scale: How Designers Use Set Models. Production models include those from Exit the King, Antony and Cleopatra, The Life of Galileo, Antigone and The Comedy of Errors, each of which went through many iterations, taking into account the designer’s vision, the director’s vision, and how the set actually functions with getting actor on and off stage. Also included in the exhibition is a history and video of the famous five-story Drum Revolve stage, located in the National’s Olivier Theatre, another unique and integral part of how plays are presented in that space.
Seeing the sheer scale and production value of everything that happens at the National is inspirational for anyone, but as an actor, it really reinforced my goal to work there. It also reinforced the excellence that goes into everything that they do- and the continued work that actors need to do to achieve those heights.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Just the word resolution makes me think of wasted gym memberships and broken dreams. That’s not to say that the new year isn’t a great time to re-evaluate. It is! But instead of coming with a vague list of “new you” ideas you’ll likely not keep, why not set some honest goals to truly make this year exactly what you want it to be?
Here are my tips:
Create your vision
Expand your resources
Pick your passion
Create your vision
What do you want your career to look like? I suffer from “I want to do everything” syndrome. Theatre? Absolutely! Film? Bring it! Commercials? Sure! Voiceover? Yes, please! Corporate?… well, you get the idea. This year, I’ve decided to make Theatre (with a capital “T”) my focus. Yes, that probably means I’ll get called in to castings for everything else, but at least I know where to focus my energy.
This is where I take issue with so-called “SMART” goals. The R is for realistic, and admittedly, there’s no use setting a goal to be an Olympic gymnast at my height (5’10”) and my age (none of your business!)
But shouldn’t you set goals that are as big as your dreams? One successful actress I know told me that she maps out her acting career for the year, including the number of plays (or films or commercials) she plans to do and when. And, for the most part, it works for her. I’m convinced that’s because she knows exactly what she wants, when she wants it- and she does the behind the scenes work to go out and make it happen.
Whatever your goals, give them a deadline date. If you just decide you’d like to be in your first feature (at some point), or for that matter, lose five kilos (eventually), there is NO sense of urgency. You know what makes things happen? A looming deadline. And accountability, so let someone close to you know your goals (and deadlines), so they can-lovingly!- follow up on your progress.
Expand your resources
What’s the definition of madness? It’s not actually repeating the same thing and expecting a different result, though there is a reason people say that! If you want to achieve new things, you have to expand your reach and your knowledge, meet new people and keep your mind open to unexpected possibilities. Might we suggest a workshop with us to do all of these things?
Pick your passion
Finally, don’t set goals you don’t want to do. The trend this year, at least in advertising, seems to be Veganuary. But what if you love meat? You’ll give up after a week!*
Choose goals that fit you, whether for your acting career, your fitness or your life goals, so that you’re excited about working on them and achieving them. Success isn’t the same for everyone as your goals shouldn’t be either.
We wish you the very best for the new year and know that you can live your goals and dreams- hopefully these tips will be one step toward them!
* Please note: I fully believe in the benefits of being a vegan, especially for the environment- I just know it’s not for everyone! There is a really cute pig if you follow the link, though.