Remember Your Strengths

It is good to know your weaknesses. Having a healthy awareness of your limitations, or the areas of your craft that need work, can prevent you from getting complacent and guide you in your selection of material and auditions.

But you also have to balance that with an intimate knowledge of your strengths.

In my experience at least, keeping track of my weaknesses is no problem. A good portion of my education was focused on finding and illuminating bad habits, tricks and comfort zones, so that they could be overcome. As a young working actor, rejections at auditions, quick rehearsal processes and my own flirtations with the fears and insecurities common among artists all keep a running tally in my head of the things I need to work on. What I sometimes neglect (and what I imagine many of you neglect as well) is remembering my strengths.

Without that balance it is easy to get intimidated, stifled and discouraged. This, obviously, is counterproductive to fostering the kind of creative courage you need to grow as an actor. Moreover, it is incredibly limiting. If you don’t remind yourself what your strengths are, you have an incomplete toolkit. And, just to complete the metaphor, without attention, those tools are going to get rusty. I know a lot of young actors (myself included) who fall into the trap of underselling their strengths for fear of appearing arrogant, or because they suddenly doubt their own assessment of their work. But that is the road to missed opportunities. Look at it from a director’s point of view. Why should they believe in people who don’t believe in themselves? Why on earth would they take that kind of risk?

Also, failing to give proper respect to your strengths will end up wasting your time. For example, I was recently cast as a title character in a show that another actor had to drop. It is a remount (when a play is produced again after its original run) and will be running in rep with (at the same time as) another show, which means the rehearsal process will be quite short. To cap it off, I am the latecomer to this production. As thrilled as I was to get the part, I found myself stressing quite a bit. I took one look at the lines and thought “I’ll never memorize those in time.”

I’m going to go ahead and qualify this as a stupid thought. All my other anxieties, that I won’t live up to my predecessor’s performance, feeling like I have something to prove, are common insecurities and will fade in due time. But wasting a second worrying about line memorization is just silly. Because, fortunately, this has never been a problem for me. There are many areas of acting I struggle with, but line memorization is almost never one of them. I know myself to be a quick, confident study. The time I spent worrying about that could have been used making character choices, which in turn would alleviate other anxieties.

My point is, this business is rough enough. There will always be people to remind you of your weaknesses. You need to advocate for your strengths. You are making a career on the back of your talents. You should know what those talents are.

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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