I return often in my teaching and directing to Michael Shurtleff’s book, Audition. I find it a wise and invaluable book about both acting and life. One of his points is that The Negatives Are Always Written. Shurtleff writes:
“It is a curious wonderment of playwriting to find that the negatives are always written in a play and it is the actor’s job to provide the positives.
“ This means that no is strongly and literally written:
No, I don’t want that
I want to leave
Leave me alone
I won’t do what you want
“The actor’s job is to see through the negative to the other side of the coin, to find the yes that is always also in the scene.”
Similarly, it is easy to remember (for me at least) the people in my life who have made my life difficult: the bullies I’ve gone to school with, the bullies and liars I’ve had for bosses, the petty tyrant supervisors, ubiquitous knee-jerk naysayers, the fools I’ve not suffered gladly, the people I’ve butted heads with…gladly and righteously. Not only is it easy to remember them. It remains easy, indeed a trap, to continue to fuss and fume over bygone encounters. Much as I might like to, I’ll never fix these people.
I remind myself from time to time, to counter the impulse to spin my wheels over negative people by recalling the positives, the people who in one way or another have said “YES” in my life. My time is better spent honoring those who have been unabashedly supportive: a high school coach, a head of school mentor, teaching colleagues, my first grade teacher, acting teachers, hockey buddies, former roommates, former students, seminar leaders, not to mention close family and friends. These wonderful people have popped up in timely ways in all stages of my life, right through today. They are the ones who remind me that I am valuable and sustain my faith in what I have to offer. I do well to remember these people are wellsprings and inspiration for my creativity.
The negatives are always written in. It is the actor’s job to provide the positives. It is my job in life to remember, to use the YES people as resources, and to thank these positives in my life. Sometime, make the time to make a list of your YES people.