Acting is a much more important profession than most people acknowledge. It holds reality together and keeps the empathy machine – essential to society – running. Serious actors skilled in their craft are more important than ever.
Acting is the core tool of social cohesion. ‘Storytelling in public’ has a lineage that stretches back over 180,000 years (writing is a mere 4000 years old) and it has always served as the ethical and spiritual barometer of society. Actors, therefore, are the transmitters of deep emotional wisdom and hold the whole fabric of what we agree on as “reality” together. It all sounds rather grand I know, but stay with me for a second as I make my case on your behalf: Actors created the social reality we live in – quite literally … and they still do.
An actor by the name of Thespis was responsible for the emergence of a whole new mode of public discourse that changed the path of human civilisation. Dialectics, which is based on the premise that truth exists between two opposing forces, entered society thanks to a moment when the poet (Thespis) stepped down off the podium in the festival of Dionysus to “wrestle” with another speaker who disagreed with what he was saying – in a public forum. In Ancient Greece a wrestler was called an “agonist”, the first wrestler was called the “protagonist” and the next wrestler, the “antagonist”. When these two opposing forces contested each other in public, they laid the bedrock of a way of interacting that lead to the birth of democracy, philosophy and the modern scientific method. An actor opened the doorway to truth in a world that had previously been in the thrall of Gods and Tyrants.
So, we have actors to thank for the emergence of all of Western Civilisation. Remember this the next time someone at a bbq infers that maybe you should, “try to get a real job”.
Actors are the living embodiment of human culture. We are all kin, from the child in drama class to the young Apprentice learning how to metabolise a feeling into an impulse that becomes an action, to the novice learning the fundamentals of the profession right through to the stars.
For these reasons and many others 16th Street is dedicated to the actor, we are dedicated to the craft, we are dedicated to the ecosystem and we are dedicated to maintaining the craft.
There is a vitality
a life force
a quickening that is translated by you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time
this expression is unique
and if you block it
it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost;
the world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is,
nor how valuable,
nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.
– Martha Graham
— Iain Sinclair