Thursday, November 13, 2008

that damned talent question

A student will study with me for a few months, and then work up the nerve to ask if they "have what it takes." I categoricaily refuse to answer this question. First of all, there are countless stories of major actors who were told repeatedly that they were no good. And since I don't have a working crystal ball, I refrain from commenting.

This story talks about a new study that suggests that it is practice, not talent, that makes for success. It asserts that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve true expertise at something. So now I have a new response if I want one: "Check with me after another 9,900 hours of practice."

Most singing teachers will tell you that there are actually very few people who cannot learn, with some work, to sing. Most of us have the capability. How much readiness, willingness, and dogged determination we bring to the challenge is another matter. And that's how I feel about acting. Does everyone bring different levels of readiness to meet the challenges of vulnerability and spontaneity that acting calls for? Sure. But then the question becomes: what will they DO with whatever they have been given.

Make no mistake. Acting is VERY challenging. I think that is one of the things that pretty much everyone who darkens my door comes to grasp. It's the ones who decide, for whatever reason, to soldier on in the face of that grasped difficulty, that grow, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

Aesop wasn't kidding about that slow and steady stuff.

It may take 10,000 hours to get to be a jedi knight. But as another wise man once said, the journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step.

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