Fast Food Arts and Sustainability

Remember that day in 10th Grade Government Studies when the teacher asked you to scribble down a name of one of your heroes on a poorly ripped corner of college ruled notebook paper? You quickly had to place this admission of heroic praise within an odd, nondescript shoe-box only to pass it to another student and have them mix their admission (and cooties) with yours? Once this weird offering box of heroic ideology returned back to the teacher, remember how they started listing off the dubious heroes: rock stars recently released from jail, sports stars who thought monogamy was a type of wood, and out of all other things, one dimensional cartoon characters?Suddenly, the teacher looked down at one of the offerings and did the dramatic “surprised double- take”. Silence blanketed the classroom. Students inched forward, as if the piece of paper would have whispered its secret to them. The teacher then announced, “Benjamin Franklin”. Fluctuations of giggles reverberated off of the small “hospital white” classroom walls. With slight admiration, the teacher asked, “Who wrote this?” The students looked quizzically at one another, as if reenacting the Salem Witch Trials. Needless to say, no one took responsibility.Well, after many years of lurking in the shadows, I have to confess… it was me. Though, can you blame me for my choice? The man played a pivotal role within our political system, how we, as a society, communicate (ex. USPS), and gave us a stronger foundation in understanding electricity; to name a few things. He was a true “Renaissance Man”. Yes, he received vast recognition and praise for his work, but what were the reasons behind his many and varied accomplishments? Drive and enthusiasm. Benjamin Franklin had the drive and enthusiasm for all that he did, everything he touched. He was insatiably curious, willing to learn, and strove for advancement. Thanks to him, we had the foundation to build so much of what we have now.Now you have to ask, after three paragraphs, what does this have to do with the arts, and theater to be more specific? Notwithstanding that Franklin pursued many musical endeavors during his life, and the fact that he attended the theater on many occasions, remember those “heroes” my classmates chose? Many of them were just chosen because of their talent but not because of why they became involved in what they did or who they were as people. Well, that reflects the very root of this article: the current situation between Artistic Progression and the trend of Fast Food Arts.My definition of “Fast Food Arts” is as follows: it’s cheap art (though often expensive to the consumer) that briefly satisfies a current entertainment desire, without being nutritious to the consumer or platform it attaches itself to. This art also involves individuals that merely fall into the title of “artist”. These Fast Food Artists have neither the desire to fully comprehend the roots of what they do, nor do they care about its sustainability – thus the relationship becomes parasitic, with the art shriveling and the artists gorging themselves to death. This definition may seem incredibly over-dramatic (what can I say, I’m in theatre) but it holds a very sad truth to it.The absurd rise to fame of these “Reality TV” stars and some of these YouTube sensations have fostered a false sense that art can lead you to success, leaving the art to be a misused tool. For example, people now call themselves actors because they feel it will have a hefty paycheck connected to it. Many don’t care about personal growth while others, who at least make the attempt of taking classes or otherwise improving on their craft, could care less how their acting will positively impact the artistic medium that has given them their opportunities.Now, I have read several articles that rave about “Reality TV” stars and the YouTube sensations, so to clarify: this article is not one of those. I give respect to some of these individuals (to a point) as some have had a very strong business sense that has carried them through. This article is meant for those thinking about or attempting to become an artist, and more specifically, an actor. I certainly understand desires, some that involve a large paycheck, but the arts have never been the best resource for that goal (Google search: salaries of Bio-medical Engineers).And if you are one of these actors receiving a quarter of a million dollars from your last project, wouldn’t you want to give a little back to keep your source of income continuing? This “giving” doesn’t have to be monetary either. You can improve your own acting abilities, so you can better push other actors to step up to the competition. That would create stronger performances all around and far more impressive storytelling, which leads to more interesting projects/productions with longer lasting effects for the audiences. You can push boundaries with creating, promoting, or acting in a piece that isn’t considered mainstream. It may not bring you a huge paycheck, but it would bring a variance that is craved by a small but strong supportive group, it could assist the career of a new writer (and grow your network), and it could push you in a new direction that could then make you more marketable.If you analyze things close enough though, you will see that theatre (as well as any other art or business sector) is an elaborate web where everything is linked in one form or fashion. If you help in nourishing those around you, you will naturally also become stronger. For example, the more you push for the arts, the more opportunities can be created due to an increase in audience potential. And those that truly have a passion for the art will benefit the most, as well as spearhead the growth of something that can help so many others; whether through direct involvement or as voyeurs. It is about supporting the idea that Stanislavsky shared with us over 80 years ago, “Love art in yourself, not yourself in art.”One needs to be willing to be vulnerable, sometimes in front of millions, and to push forward the study as well as comprehension of human nature. If we don’t, what is the purpose of art? We create art in order to connect to emotions, spirituality, social beliefs, creativity, self-comprehension, among so many other facets. But how can someone connect to something hollow unless they are hollow themselves? It is just as odd as those that put out hollow or “Fast Food Art” to say they love the arts. How can you love something when you know nothing about it? It seems ridiculous to love someone, when all you know is their first name or were in the same room together for a brief moment. It also seems absurd to say you are an artist when you have not taken the time to understand the art you say you love, and actually connect it to the ideas that baptize this planet on a daily basis.So then ask yourself, “What can I do?” The first is to see if you are earnestly passionate about the arts. If you are not able to fight for it and you merely want security; follow one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions – “Exeunt, pursued by a Bear”. In other-words, run away as quickly as possible. This does not mean you cannot appreciate the arts but being an artist (and an actor to be more specific) requires a certain perseverance and a lot of gambling.If you feel you can handle the unreliability of the arts, then the next thing you should ask yourself is “What is the next step?”. The next step would be to audition and get yourself out there. Start becoming a part of the intricate artistic web and start creating your own connections. With these connections, you may not only have someone willing to get you involved with a future project, but you’ll have many resources to learn and grow from. Take the time to watch someone else’s technique, ask questions, and see how the inner workings of the industry affect you as an artist.

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