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Is art important to society? And how do actors contribute to our society?
Art, music, dance, and acting are all vital parts of our daily life. Whether we realize it or not, the arts are unequivocally ingrained into our traditions, cultures, personalities, and legacies.
When you come home from a long day at work, what is the first thing most of us want to do? Kick off our shoes, turn on the TV, and relax. But what is on that TV? Actors performing in countless works of art across dozens of streaming services, dancers bringing us Dancing with the Stars, artists bringing the sets to life and graphic design in the commercial breaks, and musicians underscoring everything and bringing moments to life.
You walk through your hallway after your evening shows, and there’s art on the wall that someone took the time and creativity to make. You put on some music while you get ready for bed, listening to the life’s work of a musician. You put on your pajamas that a fashion designer created. The clear point is, art is everywhere and ingrained in everything!
Why is acting important?
Of all the art forms that comprise our daily life, acting is one of the most prevalent. Just about anyone from any walk of life consumes media on television, streaming services, movies, animations, and more. Without acting, there would be no way to bring stories to life. Many people hold the opinion that acting is “frivolous” or doesn’t contribute much to the world. But as we’ll continue to explore in this article, that couldn’t be further from reality. Acting brings to life and preserves countless stories, celebrations, traditions, cultures, and acts as a unique time-vessel to capture moments of history in a way no other method could.
Acting provides an escape from life’s challenges.
An article from med.umn.edu states that audience members who struggle with mental health issues feel less alone when they see mental health portrayed on stage. Their article shared this quote – “Theoretically, theater has the potential to help both the actors and audience by providing information about mental illness, challenging stereotypes, reducing stigma, decreasing the sense of isolation, providing role models and instilling hope,” Dr. Sherman said, professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
On stage, acting can be a wonderful outlet and catharsis for actors, creating a space in which they feel they belong, and an opportunity to express themselves in a healthy and safe space. As an audience member or viewer at home, we can experience much of the same catharsis and emotional release from witnessing the performances, music, and portrayal of events we can relate to.
Acting nurtures resilience.
Most actors will tell you that acting isn’t always a walk in the park. It takes a lot of preparation, determination, and resilience. Every actor you see has probably been told “no” to a role they dreamed of more times than can be counted, yet they persisted. Preparing for a role can be very strenuous, with copious amounts of research, method acting (which can be very physically and emotionally taxing), changes to the physique, isolation, and a lot of creative brainstorming.
The restraint and dedication it takes to be an actor is inspiring. For example, it has been reported that Anne Hathaway only ate two oatmeal squares per day while preparing to film Les Miserables, to portray her dying character Fantine. Many actors have undergone wild transformations for their roles, from Christian Bale’s gaunt performance in the Machinist to Renee Zellweger gaining 30lbs to portray Bridget Jones. Aside from physique, many actors take on the hobbies and lifestyles of their characters, spending hours developing skills useful for the role. Acting requires a lot of resilience, and also inspires it.
Acting helps us explore other cultures and worlds.
Acting can teach us things we’ve never discovered before. From ancient cultures, prehistoric times, any point on the globe, and any point in time, acting can teach us vital lessons in history and cultural respect/appreciation. When actors prepare for these roles, and when we watch the finished result, we’re able to understand the perspective of others in a way we maybe didn’t before.
The window that acting gives us into our current and past society is invaluable, along with the ability to see worlds and times that no longer exist - perfectly preserved in the form of visual art (and thanks to the actors portraying it!)
Acting opens up the opportunity for important discussions.
As we grow and change as a global society, we’re learning more and more about each other, and ways to fix generational problems and hardships. Acting and the arts are a wonderful bridge to a safe space to discuss and learn about inequalities, generational traumas, mental illnesses, and so much more. The arts breed dialogue, thoughtfulness, and mindfulness.
Acting builds confidence.
Acting can improve public speaking, poise, courage, and confidence. You may have experienced stage-fright before, a very common feeling when you’re nervous to perform or speak in front of others. Being engaged in theater can greatly alleviate this, and help us navigate all sorts of life situations, from interpersonal confrontation and communication to pitches at work. It's also a beautiful tool to help actors find themselves and their voice, through their characters. It teaches cooperation and teamwork, which also builds confidence in both leaders and followers.