Be As If You Were
When I was in undergrad I had a class that was focused around teaching elementary school children theatre. My professor in the class made us aware of something very early on that year that has stuck with me in everything I do. He told us all to never tell a child to “pretend” to be something. We were always to use the phrase, “Be as if you were.” The idea behind using this terminology is that when you tell a child to pretend, they add on an additional layer to the action. They try to tell the audience who they are rather than show the audience. The result of pretending is often a performance that lacks truth and can put people off. When the child adopts the idea of being whatever you have asked them to portray, they get rid of the pretense and act truthfully and honestly leading to a more engaged performance and a great opportunity to learn.
A number of years later, as I was entering into my second year of teaching I was reminded of this idea. The previous year had been rough. I had students acting up all the time, classes that were completely out of control, and days where I felt I never could get any teaching done. That summer I had read a number of books on directing that specifically had addressed the idea of how great directors showed discipline. They made sure their actors were on time, they pushed them, and they inspired them. I thought of my classroom in that way. I got into the classroom and, as my first class of the day shuffled in, I heard those words “be as if you were” and I instantly straightened up, my voice deepened, and to my surprise I played the part of a teacher who was in full control of his classroom. I firmly told them all to stand at the back of the room and I would assign them their seats, if anyone bristled at this, I had them step outside of the class. By the end of the class, I had all of my students seated and listening to the rules of the day. This was very different from the previous year where it was a basic free for all. I continued to play the part and my second year was considered a turnaround year by most of the faculty. I had control of my classroom and I even started to mentor some new teachers. The only difference between year one and year two, was in year one I was pretending I was teacher and in year two I had fully taken on the role and believed it.
A number of years after that I made the decision that I was going to raise money for an Off-Broadway show. I had never done this before, but I made it a point to learn as much as I could about the terminology and the business and then play the part with as much truth as possible. My first time out, I raised the money needed to get a producing credit on that show and I was eventually able to turn that success into opportunities to raise money for Broadway. Just like I had to do with that class full of students, I had to sit with people who could write very large checks and trust in me and what I had to offer. I wasn’t a producer yet, I had to believe I was before I could get the buy-in I needed. There is a lot of advice out there that says that you need to “fake it till you make it.” I don’t think this works. I think that if you want to really make it in an industry, you have to follow my old college professor’s advice. You need to:
Be As If You Were
Once you put yourself into the mindset of the person you want to be, you’ll notice that you handle everything differently. You’ll have a confidence that is noticeable, but you won’t be seen as arrogant. You’ll be able to really go out there and make something happen.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
I believe in you.
Do YOU believe in you?