It's a story almost too Disney to be true.
When the Burmese army invaded Ayutthaya, Thailand in 1767, they took everything of value — including the lives of the Thai monks there. All that was left behind were ruins of a once peaceful kingdom and a large but otherwise worthless clay statue of the Buddha.
Almost 200 years later, this unimpressive statue was set to be relocated to a minor temple in Bangkok. Historical accounts differ at this point, but it seems that the statue proved hard to lift — it was far heavier than expected. In one attempt to hoist it by crane, the statue fell and cracked. Which, typically, would have been very bad news.
Yet, in a twist that would have delighted ol' Walt himself, it was discovered that what had cracked was a shell. The statue was not, in fact, clay, but solid gold. A casual $250,000,000 worth.
Historians believe the 5.5-tonne statue, now known as the Golden Buddha, was plastered over by the Thai monks upon hearing of the impending Burmese invasion. Knowing the army would plunder anything of significance, the monks covered the great treasure in 12 inches of clay. Their ingenious protection mechanism worked. Sadly, none were left to later reveal the secret of the statue's true value. Hence the two centuries of obscurity.
Aside from sharing a wild story, why are we raving about the world's largest solid gold Buddha?
Because haven't we, dear actor amigos, done just the same?
You are gold
Raise yo' hand if you, as an actor, feel your worth is seen and appreciated.
We mightn't be omnipresent, but we've worked with enough of our folk (and been actors for long enough ourselves) to know there'd be very few hands in the air. Which is devastating. Because we, like the Golden Buddha, are shiny and immeasurably precious at our core.
Of further devastation is how quickly this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's hard to deliver the stunning performances we're capable of when we feel deficient and irrelevant. As a result, the secret of our sparkle is forgotten by us and those around us. Just as the Golden Buddha's was for 200 years.
Our industry isn't (yet) set up in a way that marks actor well-being as a high priority. It's only natural, therefore, that we feel a similar urge to protect. Instead of a Buddhist statue, it's ourselves. Instead of the threat of an army, it's the threat of countless unhelpful external circumstances. In both cases, a 12-inch shell is constructed.
Always believe in your soul
Over time, it's easy to start identifying with our unexceptional shell, rather than our glowing core. Scores of our thespian homies end up leaving the actor's path for this very reason. But we don't have to add to the body count. The possibility of reconnecting with our true worth is available to us at every moment.
We won't pretend this is easy — we'll likely need to "protect" ourselves on occasion until our industry evolves — but it is simple. 90% of the battle, in fact, is remembering we're gold. If we remember, we can return.
These reminders can take whatever form sails our ship, but some tried-and-tested examples include:
- Collecting EVERY positive comment we receive. For those wincing at how egotistical this sounds, listen: egotistical folk don't tend to gather at the Dojo. We doubt you're the exception. This is an insanely powerful practice so don't discount it.
- Reviewing our library of past slays. We all have pictures, videos, and/or journal entries from our greatest artistic triumphs. The point? If that capacity has previously existed within us, it exists there still.
- Reaching out to those in our corner. Whether a teacher, coach, peer, us — there will always be someone who knows the secret of our brilliance. This requires some vulnerability, but c'mon, who hasn't ultimately been strengthened by authentic sharing?
Again, our method of choice doesn't matter. What does is that we have an effective tool for periodically scraping away unnecessary build-up. We know our best performances come when we're free from inhibition — when our research and rehearsal and training and talent radiate from us without the slightest effort or obstruction — so this is just as important actor "work" as anything else. Perhaps even more so.
There's no need to wait two centuries to reveal your multi-million dollar value. Let us marvel at it now.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
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