Bucking Up The Troops—keeping up the actors’s spirits
Posted on 22 October 2013
During my Melbourne Fringe show, on a few occasions I emailed what I hope were inspirational essays to keep everyone on track. I have decided to share a couple.
In the late 1970s-early 80s the US decided to actually have other countries compete in their Little League World Series, thus justifying the name. Japan is baseball crazy and decided to take the organisers up on this. Their kids creamed the US kids.
The US parents would push and push and push their kids to be “stars”, expecting superhuman perfection. The parents would heckle their own kids from the bleachers whenever they made mistakes. They would also compete with one another as to whose kid was the best.
The Japanese kids were raised on the values of mutual support and gambatte. Gambatte translates as “do your best”. The idea is that it doesn’t matter whether you do a thing perfectly, or even that you win, so long as you do your best. This value is accepting of a person’s humanity, while still calling for commitment to good work. If you ever watch Iron Chef on SBS, you will hear that word a lot.
Our culture has been saddled with some of the values of Calvinism and Puritanism (no thanks to you, Cromwell). Perfection is expected to achieve either heaven or success. So when parents or bosses aren’t berating or punishing us for mistakes, we often feel a need to punish and berate ourselves. It’s just not necessary.
I agree with the toilet paper companies: it’s possible to be both strong and gentle when dealing with the poo life sends you. We are doing comedy. For us mistakes really are opportunities. Tard’s “like”/”lick” mistake is now one of our big laugh jokes. People’s improvisations have regularly kept the show fresh and funny. The audience gets a better sense that this is something special, this is LIVE theatre. We have no safety net in the way movies and television does. Circus performers regularly put in mistakes before their big trick, so people have a greater sense of drama when that trick comes.
When you drop a line or muddle something up: laugh it off, do what you need to in order to keep the show going, and make a mental note to do better next time. No one can really ask you to do any more than that.
Peace and kindness,