The best advice from 2013: How We Do What We Do

Marika Aubrey’s exciting 2013 feature series How We Do What We Do made AussieTheatre history as the most popular regular column to appear on the website!

Marika Aubrey. Image by Blueprint Studios
Marika Aubrey. Image by Blueprint Studios

With over 12,000 individual readers over the last year, Marika’s in depth and insightful interview series has captured the minds of the Australian and international theatre going public.

At the end of 2013, Marika reflected on her 2013 experience with the How We Do What We Do series and today we publish her official wrap up for the past 12 months.

More exciting features are lined up already for 2014 so stay tuned for another jam packed year of How We Do What We Do!

Now, over to Marika:

Dearest Aussie Theatre Readers,

THANK YOU all for taking the time to read How We Do What We Do in 2013! I have loved chatting with such a tremendous collection of talents – and received lovely feedback from YOU dear reader (thanks for the messages and tweets and suggestions! Keep em coming!).

In honour of the 12 Days of Christmas (whoosh! Didn’t they fly by…?!) I wanted to share with you 12 Things I Learnt from HWDWWD2013 (hash-tag THAT!).

#1 JANUARY- Human First

…you seem to delay everything because you don’t know. You don’t know where you’re going to be working – you’re terrified to take a holiday – cause you don’t know if you’re going to miss out on a job or if you come back that you’ll never get money ever again. You’re scared to go away cause all of a sudden you get forgotten about. You have a baby, you’re going to disappear. It’s just that thing where you think, f*** you got to live your life too. You have to be a human first” – Eddie Perfect

In January Eddie Perfect reminded me that the second your sister announces her wedding date you can be guaranteed that you will land that final call-back for a lead role. Get used to it. Things will always clash. And your family may not always understand why you aren’t able to make Grandma’s 80th… but only you can make those decisions. Ultimately you are a human first. Make the decision you can live with the most and don’t worry if that means sometimes you can’t take the gig. There will be others.

#2 FEBRUARY – Observe

I didn’t enter until about an hour into the show, so I got to watch Jacki Weaver, Robert Alexander and Sue Walker perfect their craft, perfect their gags every night. I always say Jacki Weaver is one of my acting teachers too, because I watched her” Mitchell Butel

Shut up and pay attention. It’s not your job to be popular or be liked (unless you want a career that begins and ends there…). The learning never ends. (thank god!) So watch. And learn. (and shhhh…don’t speak…)

#3 MARCH – Be Ready

Virginia Gay wisely re-told the story of going in for one role, but scoring another –

“…Channel 7 were looking for a new face. The brief read: “young, beautiful waif-like. The kind of girl who’d pick a flower and put it in her hair on the way to work”…and I went, well, that’s NOT this kid (pointing at herself)….But I thought, ok, I’ll learn it a million different ways and be ready to do whatever they need”.

Too often I forget this. Get caught up in the ‘I’m not right’ mind-fuck stuff. And sure, I very well may not be right…. But darned if it isn’t an opportunity to play, to be ready, to ignite an interest in who I CAN be and see if I am right for something else. Good lesson. Thanks Virginia!

#4 APRIL – Casting Constraints

I’ve never done a film, a feature film, because I’m very much seen as a TV actor”.

It never occurred to me that someone as successful as Lisa McCune cannot get auditions for things. Since our April chat, I have come to the conclusion (probably obvious to you dear reader, but bear with me…) that every artist, no matter what perceived ‘level’ they are on – from the chorus girl who dreams of a lead role, through to freaking Dame Dench – is desperately hoping to be viewed differently, to be seen as more. We spend the first part of our career trying to get noticed and the second half (and this is if you are successful at the first bit) trying to break that perception and challenge ourselves…

#5 MAY – Listen

I listen to everyone. It’s all in life. My full-time job is just listening and watching and observing” – Bernadette Robinson.

Read No.2 again (…shhhhh)

#6 JUNE – Kindness

I’ve got a whole new audience… but I just like people. I like talking to people. Not about myself….I just mean, I like making all people feel comfortable. And I know how it can feel to be criticised. Being knocked at the beginning of your career.  You just treat everyone the same” – Rob Mills.

We’ve all heard fellow actors have a good ol’ obnoxious dig at someone in the industry they’ve NEVER worked with or even know very well. Preconceived ideas about people are just that. You may be surprised…

#7 JULY – Overcommitment

July was the month I learned that creating and performing your own one woman show from scratch and organising a wedding doesn’t leave much time for nattering over coffee. Some of you complained (bless you), but your patience was rewarded in August…

#8 AUGUST – Work Hard

Work hard. And it will pay off… I mean… It’s hard work. You gotta really love it. But if you wanna do it, then 100%. Go in guns blazing. And make it happen… pursue it and love it, love it, love it, and do it, do it, do it”  Yvonne Strahovski

Most of the seriously successful performers I know work bloody hard. They are fearless in their pursuit of this work. And they have usually made their own work. Even the ‘overnight success’ stories are almost always the cherry on top of a big fat sundae of hard slog. Congratulations (I mean, really though) to anyone who got somewhere easy. Otherwise? Just do the work.

#9 SEPTEMBER – The ‘Corporate Ladder’ Doesn’t Exist In The Arts

In Christopher Stollery I discovered a fellow addict: “…as exhausting as the business can be – And dispiriting and heartbreaking and all those things – I still can’t imagine turning my back on it. It’s a bit of a torture actually”.

Not everyone gets a lead role. Some people will understudy brilliantly their whole lives. And why not? Why isn’t every career one to be celebrated and respected? You’re in work? Bravo! You’re training? Yay you! You’re working in a cafe by day and watching Meryl Streep films by night? Tick! This profession goes up. And down. And up… Accept the roller coaster and love all it’s exhilarating highs and shitty awful Maggi noodle eating lows.

#10 OCTOBER – Humility

I love seeing what [my peers] do. I’ve been really lucky to work with some truly great older actors too, like Sean O’Shea and Jacki Weaver. I’m always very humbled and grateful to work with actors with much more experience than me”

I loved Anthony Gooley’s honesty and gratitude. Insert analogy about dark horses here.

#11 NOVEMBER – Respect Your Fellow Artists

…[training] gives you tools. Everyone has different styles and techniques. And ultimately good acting is when you’re in the moment. When you’re completely involved in the story you’re telling. How you get there doesn’t matter I reckon, as long as you get there” Gyton Grantley

Who cares if you’re Meisner or Method? A background research geek, or a turn-up-and-don’t-bump-into-the-furniture kinda actor? Just be there listening and responding – and together we will serve up the play to our dear audience with a side of awesome.

#12 DECEMBER – Giving Back

“Being able to improve the health of the industry in which you work, actually makes more and more opportunity for you to just do your work better when you are doing it, and hopefully to get more work…For me that’s a constant challenge to cast myself as one of the many who are responsible for that, but it’s also a constant joy.  Giving back gives back.”

Fiona Press’ cheeky grin and the sparkle in her eye as she reflected on a 30 year career – and a 30 year Equity membership – was a beautiful Christmas gift. The best reminder of all – that curiosity is key and that we each shape the industry we work in. So giving as much as we can to it’s health can only benefit everyone.

HERE’S THE WRAP UP (with a big red Christmas bow)

Some artists in this series have trained. Some haven’t.

Some always knew they wanted to act. Some accidentally found it over time.

Some have a certain process to their work. Some change it up.

Many couldn’t specifically identify or articulate HOW they do what they do, but it has been a delight to chew on these decisions together, and I enjoy that every artist has had (and continues to have) a different career journey.

I sincerely hope the nerdy neurotic bit of your own artist self extracted something useful, inspiring, surprising, or comforting from reading our natters. I invite you along to chat with me and 12 more amazing actors in 2014!

Love Marika X

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Marika has written 23 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by

Follow Marika: @MarikaAubrey