Am I Suffering Enough to Make Good Art? | LA STAGE TIMES by Evan McNamara

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “you must suffer for your art.” I’ve always considered myself an optimist with a pretty good life, albeit a bit of a worrier. So the worrisome voice in my head would occasionally wonder, “Am I suffering enough to make good art?” I actually felt hindered by my happy life. Well, momma, the times have changed!

Sadly, I can now say that I’ve been through hell. And if there is a silver lining to what happened, it’s that, through my art, I was able to use my experiences to better myself and, I hope, enlighten my audience in the process, maybe even saving some of them from the same pitfalls.

So to back up… last year I discovered something shocking about my wife, the mother of my two young children. I say “discovered,” but really it was a veil of denial lifted from my eyes. That difficult revelation led to other even more painful discoveries — all leading to the eventual end of our marriage. It was a blast! Every morning I woke up and had that first thought of, “Oh, crud, my life is still real!”

Evan McNamara

To my great fortune, however, I never let up my acting work. I have been studying with John Coppola at Studio C Artists (www.studiocartists.com) for many years and we continued to keep at it during and after the breakup of my marriage. Ironically, it was a fantastic process. Talk about emotional availability — my heart wasn’t just on my sleeve; it was on the floor in front of me, screaming, “Thank you, may I have another?”

The crux of my work at Studio C has been about exploring my archetypal makeup – the essences that are a part of me, that make up my personality or who I am. The theory is that each of us, each of our personalities, contains a unique arrangement of various prototypical characters or archetypes. This is beautifully explored by author Caroline Myss (www.myss.com) in her teachings and books, most notably Sacred Contracts. And it goes much deeper than just a classification of types (doctor, lawyer, cop, dad, etc.) – it goes to the core of the human being.

These archetypes are a part of who we are and, as actors, we can learn how to bring the appropriate aspect of ourselves to any role, just by unlocking and exploring them. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I am playing a doctor. Then, to figure out how to approach the role – instead of just stereotypically focusing on only the healing aspects of a profession – I would look at what part of me works to take care of other people. Well for me, that would be my angel archetype.

My angel is a guardian so if I apply that to the role, then my doctor guards rather than just heals. It’s a much deeper step into the role – and something that’s so fundamentally grounded in who I am that, once I connect to that, it’s actually also easier to portray. Now, not everyone will be the same – they may not have the same understanding of their doctor – but the cool part is that it makes my doctor totally unique to me. It’ll be something different from what anyone else would do.

But, enough with the heady explanations. As I said, I’ve been working on my archetypes for some time, and John often would say to me, “Evan, you need to come up with a one-man-show based on these”. I thought that’d be nice – but only if I actually had something to say. Then my wife left and I had so much to tell – it was like, “Hey, Johnny, I just had an idea. I ought to do a one-man show!”

Evan McNamara

So, with John’s help, I wrote and wrote, exploring how my different archetypes were coping with my chaotic situation. The show that grew out of this exploration is based on all-new material, but some of it had foundations in archetypes I had worked on in the past. Want to hear something scary? When re-visiting my past work, it was evident that while I may have been in denial of my failing marriage, my archetypes had been fully aware!

As the story formed, and I continued to work in my archetypes, it was terrific to see how well the different aspects of me fed into each other, and blended thematically. Not to say that it was an easy process, but it forced me to be very honest with myself at a time when I was finally ready to do just that. For anyone who sees the show, I think you’ll see the final product actually makes a universal statement about human beings and relationships. I eventually arrived at something that shows my truth, without being for me. The process in getting there was for me, but the result is for the audience. I think you can apply the lessons I’ve learned to anyone who has been in love.

In other words, you won’t have to suffer for art. because I already did it for you. You’re welcome!

***All photos by Alex Nicholas

I Get Knocked Down…, directed by John Coppola and produced by Michael Sonntag for Studio C Artists, opens March 5; plays Sat. (Mar. 5, 12, 19; Apr. 16 & 23), 8 pm; Sun. (Mar. 27, Apr. 3 & 10), 3 pm; through April 23. Approximate running time is one hour. Tickets: $20. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; igetknockeddown.eventbrite.com.

Evan McNamara was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia where his career as an actor began in the third grade playing the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Dreams of a professional acting career brought him to Los Angeles where he has worked on stage, in film and on television. Local theater credits include Amadeus, You Can’t Take It With You and The Shadow, among others. Television work includes The Soup, ER, Taprooting, Silence and The Last Bad Neighborhood. McNamara has been a company member of ARTEL, Shakespeare by the Sea and L.A. Troupe. He is presently a company member of Studio C Artists.

 

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