If you are going to do anything do it as well as you can.
The above statement was told to me in 1974 when I was part of the Teacher’s College Review. This was a satirical show, and the director called us all together one day to explain performance to us. Mainly because we were all mucking about at the time and he wanted to assert some control.
His words rang true throughout my life and career.
The only way I achieved this was through hard work and a commitment to whatever I was doing at the time. I recall rehearsing performances and making an actor rehearse a line over and over. Once they got it we could move on, but as a director of performance, it was my job to make sure my actors did the best job they could do.
Not everyone can be in a lead role, and I remember one student we had who was unhappy that her role was so minor. We explained to her that her role was as important as anyone else’s. In fact, if she didn’t perform to the best of her ability then the whole performance would suffer.
It helped that I loved the process of performance. As a teacher of senior drama and having my students work on performance for those exams it was nothing for me to run workshops during my school holidays. In terms of performance, it is amazing how much can be achieved in a single hour when you are not interrupted by lesson bells going off or people coming to your door.
Of course, there were moments of inspiration.
I was an examiner of drama, travelling around the state looking at student performances. At one school, I saw a girl with cerebral palsy attempt an individual performance. She was so disabled she had no speech, her movement was extremely limited and her entire piece centred on her getting out of bed in the morning to be dressed and ready for school. It lasted three minutes, and there was not a dry eye in the room when she finished.
To me, that young lady epitomised the notion of doing something as well as you can.
When I put on shows with students, I always began with the statement above. Let’s do this as well as we can; let’s surprise ourselves with how good we make this, let’s make our audience proud of us.
I always drove my performers to do the best they could, to connect with their audience, to do the best they could. I know I drove them mad at times, and in one class they developed an expression to describe what it meant to have me take them aside and work on their performances: They referred to it as being “Groganed”. And often it was said to a particular student with an air of sympathy I am sure.
But if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing it as best you can.