“I don’t know what I am doing.” There was a huge filled silence following this statement. Cherry was asked a question regarding her process and how she approached her work and that was her answer. Didn't know what she's doing? How could that be? A force of nature like Cherry? A full time working Actress of 40 years experience? Her big open blue eyes smiled and she gathered her thoughts to continue. "What I realize I do know, is how to do is to drop in and concentrate. Just be. That took me a long time. As long as you can have absolute focus and control of your concentration, that's all you have to know." The two most important things an actor can do: Be present and committed to the moment and the circumstance with everything you've got.
"As long as you can have absolute focus and control of your concentration, that's all you have to know."
- Cherry Jones
Between Broadway and the road, Cherry did over 700 performances of Doubt. One of the dangers she spoke about is Actors starting to change the rules during long runs of a show. This could occur from becoming too comfortable or even too bored. There are a variety of reasons that an actor could, whether they realize it or not, begin to change the story that the director and cast collaborated to make. "You must stay true to the story you are telling. All stories can be told in different ways. It's about telling THIS particular one you created together through the Directors vision." Stay on track and tell the story. You can always go deeper. She ended that question by recounting her favorite quote from Lawrence Olivier, "It’s not how well you know a role, it's how long."
3. Be tender with yourself.
The last, and I feel most important, piece of advice she gave is something I know I have always struggled with as do almost all of the people I know, actor or not. There was a question asked regarding any advice she would give her younger self if she could go back in time. She pondered deeply for a moment or so and then looked over the audience with a deep wide smile and said "It’s the same thing I would tell my 58 year-old self. Just...be tender to yourself. Treat yourself like a dear friend. You can be rigorous and that's great, but there is a line. You can't be lazy but actors can say the most horrible things to themselves and there's just no need for that. We are all doing the best we can."
Yes. We are all doing the best we can. I hope the one most important piece of advice you can take into being is this one. Be kind to yourself. Take some time out for yourself. We all know New York is busy and there are countless things to do and things to see and skills to work on and it can feel endless...But take a moment. Have a bath, go for a walk in the sun, watch some netflix or take yourself to the theater. Anything that makes you smile, be present and check in with that inner friend of yours. They may just need it.
"Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time you won't do anything with it." M. Scott Peck
About the Author
Karina is an Australian born actor, performance artist and clown. She attained her Bachelor of first class Honors degree from Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore where she was fortunate enough to study various asian art forms including suzuki, kalaripayyatu, kathakali, chinese opera, butoh and tai chi. Her acting training was highly physical with training also in viewpoints, laban, grotowski, lecoq, clowning and commedia dell'arte. With a love to laugh, Karina pursued clowning and became a clown for an Children's hospital in Sydney for 2 years before moving to New York. She is incredibly grateful to be a part of the very special Ume Group.