3 Pieces of Acting Advice From Walt Whitman

April 7, 2015


“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body." –Walt Witman from the Preface to Leaves of Grass


I recently went to see a preview of the show “I and You” at the Fountain Theatre in which two seventeen year old students bond when they are paired up to complete a class assignment about Walt Whitman’s poem.


This particular quote really struck me especially as recently on the phone with one of my  close friends, she pointed out that I kept using phrases such as  “I should” or “I’m supposed to.” I am on a mission to abandon those phrases from my vocabulary—in my personal life and my career.


These are the 3 ways Walt Whitman’s quote is full of great ACTING ADVICE


1. Comparison is Death:


In addition to church and school and books—we are all influenced by the media, movies, comparing ourselves to celebrities and our friends (and their facebook feeds). It is difficult not to feel pressure to feel or do certain things. Someone in the business once advised me that “Comparison is death” but of course we all fall into that trap every once in a while. 


In life and as actors, our strength and power often comes from daring to pave a new path and instead of acting in a way we “should”, act in the way we actually ARE. It won’t be perfect, but it will be far more interesting. For me this is about approaching scenes and auditions not with “What is this scene supposed to look like?” or “What choices SHOULD I make?” but to lead instead with the courage to stand in my own point of view and quirks. When we can just BE and aren’t trying to be perfect or fit in a mold of what we think others are looking for, we are actually much more interesting and unique!


2. Let go and be free!


When Whitman says to re-examine all that you’ve learned, I also take that to mean letting go of the need to know everything, because it can be debilitating. Letting go of the beliefs you have that are holding you back. Re-claiming your own power! A speaker at a seminar I attended pointed out to us that it must be awfully stressful to live your life as if you know EVERYTHING. By this she meant that if you already  know everything you are living your life closed-off to mystery and ignoring the possibilities of the moment. For instance if you believe “They’ll never cast me, I don’t have enough twitter followers” or “I’m not funny enough” you are blocking yourself and the world with your own negative beliefs. Be open towards the things that you do not know instead of insisting that your spirit live within the constraints of your own harmful beliefs. 



3. You are Enough


One of my acting teachers on our first class looked every single one of us in the eye and said “You are enough” becasue he beleived so firmly that we need to live by this as actors. It is so difficult sometimes to truly believe this, but it is honestly the only way to be the greatest you that you can be. The only way to be different than anyone else and to live up to your highest potential is to dare to be yourself. And we’ve all felt this before when we are in our element—an ease and an energy/force that radiates from deep within our being to every part of our body and voice. You are the most fun, the most free, the most talented, the most interesting, the most unique, the most memorable, the most loveable, the most likeable, the most ETERNAL, when you strip away everything that is based in “supposed to” or “should” and is simply your own truth.


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