I’ve been acting since I was ten years old. It was a part of my growing up, an integral slice of who I was and how I saw myself. I lived for the smell of hot lights, stale costumes and pancake makeup. So much of my definition of myself was influenced by my experiences onstage.
And then there was my reading. It started young, with my parents (mostly my mom) reading to me at bedtime. I have magnificent recollections of The King’s Stilts, Where the Wild Things Are, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and anything Seuss. This nightly reading eventually led up to us going through every one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia several times over.
Suffice it to say, my childhood was one of embracing imagination and the creative spirit…mostly.
One of my best friends, a writer, says that anyone that’s an avid reader is a closet writer. I think she may be right. While I was encouraged in my love of books, somewhere along the way I developed a fear of writing. Writers were special. Writers were godlike. Writers were unapproachable. The world that writers live in may seem like ours, but is actually a mystical place where words distill on the writer’s pen like the dews from heaven.
Somehow what I did as an actor was inferior. Writers were creating. I was just parroting them. (Ouch, by the way. I would never dream of speaking of another artist’s art in such a denigrating fashion.) I didn’t see that what I was doing was a beautiful partnership, where the end result can be greater than the sum of its parts.
What I also didn’t see was how similar the two disciplines really are.
Writers are storytellers. Actors are storytellers. The writer’s medium is the page; the actor’s medium is the stage or screen. Even the way that we engage our audiences is very similar, although we may use different terminology to describe it. What a writer describes as keeping the tension present, I talk about as clarifying and intensifying the conflict. I look for a character’s objective, while a writer crafts an arc. As an actor, I take a beat, where a writer may turn a scene.
Same essential ideas, different ways of talking about them. And at the core of it, what we’re talking about as writers, actors, and… let’s face it… any artist, is the act of connection. As an actor, I connect to my partner onstage or in front of the camera, which allows me to be open to connecting with the audience. As the writer, you connect with your characters, your world, your voice… which allows you to be open to connecting with the reader.
So, just for right now in this perfect moment, let’s not say to ourselves, “I’m not a(n)…” Let’s instead embrace the possibility that we may have more than just one avenue of creativity open to us. Better by far to say, “I’m not yet…” or “I could be…”
Because in an infinite universe, I want to believe in infinite potential.
Ben Hopkin is the co-founder and Chief Creative Director of Off Our Meds Multimedia, LLC, which has a full slate of commercial, television and film projects. Ben started his career in entertainment at the age of 10, where he performed alongside his father in the opera Gianni Schicchi. Since then he has gone on to perform in theatre, television and film, often working with Tony and Emmy award-winning actors and directors. Ben is a graduate of the renowned Old Globe Theatre MFA program and was Director of the Acting Undergraduate and MFA programs at the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios for five years. As a director and producer, Ben has won awards for his work in television and his films have screened at festivals around the country. Some of his most recent projects include Too Many, which won in its category at the Cinema City International Film Festival, and Fraud Angels. Ben can also be found on Twitter as @ActingNoDrama, and teaches online acting classes to students around the world.