Hello again, readers! I have another special treat for you all: an inside story from actor Charles Swan who will be appearing in TUTS’ upcoming production of Yankee Doodle Dandy. If it weren’t for the music men and the father of Broadway himself, George M. Cohan, the American art form known as the musical would not ever exist. Charles explores this topic, as well as, the passion behind being a performer. Enjoy his story and we’ll see you out at the park next week!
From Charles Swan…
I’m guilty and should turn myself in right now before you read another word: I love musicals. People always say, “No one in real life REALLY bursts into song and dance!” but I’m here to tell you right now I am that guy. Perhaps I’m a little insane, but I'm really passionate about musical theatre and I feel incredibly lucky to do work that sometimes feels more like play and is undoubtedly always enjoyable. I’m just a song-and-dance man at heart.
And so it bothers me incredibly much when people say, “If you can do anything else in the world besides theatre, do it.”
To these people I say, “Explore it! Go for it!”
Listen, I understand what people are saying when they utter that phrase, but it is damaging and irresponsible. I honestly can’t think of a worse saying, except perhaps, “I can’t.”
Saying “do something else before you even try” is akin to telling people that there’s nothing valuable in the journey except an elusive end product that may very well be unobtainable.
If the passion for the art form is present I say, “go for it!” But I will admit that I choose the word “passion” carefully. There’s a difference between ‘liking’ something and having to do it because every fiber of your being yearns for it.
George M. Cohan was a man full of such passion and he is also someone who valued the exploration of the journey. He wasn’t just interested in show business – he wanted to embody it. He was a nifty artist who, when people said, “can’t!” said, “can!”
He wanted more than anything to be a part of it all – not only to give his regards to Broadway but also to be remembered for his contribution – his journey - to it. He lived out his fervor by shaping one of only two American indigenous art forms. Mr. Cohen lived out his passion, passionately. And we can learn a great deal from him: taking risks, exploring creative impulses, seeing what could be instead of what already is.
You know, the average actor only gets the part once out of every twenty-nine auditions. And that’s a statistic from 2005. I can only imagine what the odds are now. It’s a rough profession without passion.
Without passion we are nothing. However, with it, daunting odds seem less challenging, ‘no’s’ feel more like detours, and the road to ‘booking a show’ feels less like a destination and more like an adventure.
We are privileged to get to act and sing and dance for a living. Happy is the man who loves his work. Mr. Cohan did.
I do too.
We’ll see you in the Park,