THE SERVICE INDUSTRIES
"Will there be anything else?" Or perhaps it’s, "Can I suggest a wine for you?" But, sometimes it’s, "Now is the winter of our discontent/made glorious summer by this son of York." Whatever the line, it’s all in the same language and it’s all for the same purpose.
Is that restaurant job getting you down? Is standing behind a desk or stand greeting guest after guest waring on you resolve? Especially because you are missing auditions to do it? I am a firm believer that there’s more than one reason actors do so well in New York and LA as waiters and hosts and desk clerks and reservationists. Yes, the fact is there are a lot of us and a lot of those jobs and the math simply works. However, it’s also true that we are damn good at those jobs. And, its also true that those jobs are fundamentally the same as acting. Exactly the same.
An actor serves a customer. A customer who is sitting in a theatre expecting fulfillment and an enlightening experience. The actor almost always serves the customer their truthful expression of another’s imagination. The actor serves up the playwright’s story and the director’s vision to the hungry audience. The audience has high expectations and will likely come back or bring friends only if they are truly satisfied and filled by the experience. They will surely slander your name and caution others against you work if they are not.
A restaurant server serves a customer. A customer who is sitting at a table expecting fulfillment and an enlightening experience. The server is always endorsing and delivering the expression of another’s imagination. The actor serves up the chef’s food in the demeanor and candor dictated by the management. The customer at the table has high expectations and will likely come back or bring friends only if they are truly satisfied and filled by the experience. They will surely slander your name and caution others against your work if they are not.
And remember, whether in a restaurant or in a theatre; your work is a reflection on the work of the original visionary whose vision you are bringing to the customer. Your lifeless and sloppy work on stage/in the dining room with reflect poorly on the work of the playwright/chef.
I have certainly always had a passion for food and wine. And even if I didn’t, I would be blind and foolish to not recognize the passion those around me share. The restaurant professionals I work with and for pour an enormous amount of creative energy into their work and art. It is paralleled only by the enormous creative energy I pour into mine. They believe in serving the customer just as I believe in serving the audience.
If you don’t believe that food and whine is an art, read the bios of some of the now-famous Food Network chefs and international restaurant pioneers. The people who create genres like Asian fusion and nuevo Latino. Lean about the man who invented the now dessert tray standard Molten Chocolate Cake. They are artists and their art needs actors too. I am an actor, not a waiter. But I play a waiter in real life and I’m going to give that role my all.
And Then There Was Laughter
One of the first things I was ever taught about Theatre:
Drama happens in the mind of the audience.
Damn true. You know what you have without an audience? (Well, I guess you have rehearsal,) but fundamentally you have nothing. You have a series of events or a bunch of words strung together. Really, you have a lot of hopes and dreams or maybe even expectations that someone, somewhere, and maybe even a lot of people, are going to like what you are doing.
For weeks and weeks now I have been rehearsing a very special piece of theatre with a very special group of people. We have worked and played and hoped and dreamed, risen and fallen, sacrificed, risked and collaborated, all in the names of entertainment, theatre and art. Tonight, we put our hard work in front of nearly 150 hungry and gracious people. Tonight, our dreams came true. But, more importantly, our words and actions became funny, dramatic, inspiring, meaningful and who-knows-what else, in the mind of the audience. Our work would never have become anything without the willful participation of a unique group of people. Theatre is not meant for a void and our work is nothing if not in service of an audience.
Thank you all for coming.