I like to act. Correction. I love to act. The brute phenomenological experience of nailing it — even if only for a moment or two — is unmatched in my life except for a few other experiences. And, by few, I mean, “three others I can think of.” Moreover, of these, for me, acting is the only one that can involve more than me and one other person.
Moreover, I love the work of acting. I love how each new project brings a new set of problems and challenges to address and solve. I love trying to get inside a text and then a character. I love rehearsing, experimenting, failing, and eventually figuring it out — only to realize later that I am totally wrong and need to go back to the drawing board. I love the goal of acting and no matter how rough the journey gets, I am prepared to stick it out to get there. I even like learning my damn lines, which for me, unlike most actors, takes a lot of work.
I should also note, for those of you who are not actors, I am not talking about the the curtain call. Some actors like, enjoy, and even need that moment of public recognition (and that’s not necessarily a problem). I actually hate it, precisely because it pulls me out of what I enjoy most about successful acting.
The curtain call is the only moment on stage when the spell of good acting is necessarily broken (it can, of course, happen for all kinds of other reasons). Yes, a good actor works for his or her audience but the relationship with the audience while acting is very different from the relationship while taking the curtain call. During the curtain call, an audience is a group of people recognizing the work of some other group of people who may have done a good job entertaining them that night. While acting, the relationship between actor and audience is like a true believer’s relationship with an all-seeing, all-knowing, and not entirely all-loving god. Certainty, it is always nice to have one’s work appreciated by others, but I don’t act for the appreciation of others. I act for the encounter with God that is the promise of performance.
And why is acting better than a drug? An actor is never left chasing the dragon. There can and will be dark nights of the soul, but once you know how to catch the dragon, with work and effort, you can always catch it again — even if only for a moment or two. And I guess that’s why, acting is such a hard habit to kick.