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Key Lessons Actors Can Take Away From the Pandemic

Photo Source: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Article by Joanne Baron – originally written for Backstage.

One might look at the pandemic and think only of all the limitations and challenges it brought, missing the fact that—although we were not together in person—many lessons were learned and opportunities given. We can bring these lessons into our return to more normal modes of life.

One of the great benefits of having a limitation is the necessity it creates for creativity: finding solutions, thinking outside the box in new ways that would never have been thought of otherwise, and carrying those discoveries into the future even after those limitations are not in place. There’s a story about Steven Spielberg making “Jaws” where the mechanical shark would malfunction. Because of that, he had to think of a means by which to create the power and the danger without constantly showing the shark. Needless to say, this might have seemed impossible. However, he was able to create the intimation of its ever-foreboding presence with elements like music that actually made it scarier. “Jaws” was an incredible commercial success despite this limitation which actually became an asset.

For actors during the pandemic, we learned to access creativity because of the limitation of not being able to be together in person. Many businesses learned this as did our industry specifically as it related to acting training, auditioning, and creating projects. For example, when acting teachers had to go online to instruct students, many either saw it as an impossible feat not even worth trying or a limitation so great that they would do it minimally, making a syllabus where they would not be fully training people.

At our studio, we found incredible opportunities with this online platform to create intimacy, naturalism, relaxation, and the cinematic values that are required for both auditioning and acting jobs. We found those values are actually more greatly duplicated on this platform. We got to be up close and personal with performances and were really able to analyze work in a manner that being in the same room could sometimes obscure. Creative ways to block and create intimacy were also found. The limitation became an expansion!

In the online classroom, artists unite from all over the world to bring great diversity and talent. Students with previously substantial issues related to travel, timelines, or caretaking are able to take premier training they never would have otherwise. There have been so many benefits to the online platform that our studio is going to incorporate both in-person and online training as a permanent practice.

Writers and directors created projects that were either online or with very small, contained, in-person, COVID-19 protocol sets even during the shutdown. Sam Levinson took Zendaya and John David Washington and made an intimate feature film, “Malcolm and Marie,” that garnered awards and critical acclaim. He might not have ever done it if there had not been a limitation brought on by a pandemic.

A major lesson learned is that while there may always be limitations or obstacles outside of a shutdown, it’s the mental mindset that frames the experience. With creativity, imagination, and even a commitment to positivity, opportunities can be shaped for an ultimately fruitful outcome.

Creativity with a positive mental mindset can be brought into the return to the previous norm and expand all aspects of our lives. In this time, we learned the power of our minds and how to channel our emotions positively.

Many suffered a feeling of isolation from being shut in and turned to meditative practices, prayer, and other creative means to create connection that expanded our understanding and practices. In Italy, people were seen dancing on balconies across from each other’s buildings. On the streets of New York, people lined up in masks to applaud the heroes of service. There were celebration parades with cars honking for people’s graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. People created safe ways to celebrate, to connect, to commune.

We bring this—the recognition of the importance of connection—into our return, as well as the value of creating special, creative ways to connect. We bring forward the practices of mindfulness, meditation, gratitude, and optimism. As actors who face the frequent challenges of rejection, we must always maintain hope so we can bring that into our life. This lesson of resilience teaches us to always keep moving forward with our talent, whatever obstacles arise.

The pandemic made us learn many hard lessons, but they are precious and should not be forgotten moving forward. Instead, let us remember and practice them to make us strong for an even greater future!

by Joanne Baron

Artistic Director and Founder of Baron Brown Studio

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