Daniel Pink concludes his brilliant book A Whole New Mind with a suggestion from Naomi Epel. Epel writes, “I once heard Danny Glover say that he dedicates every performance to someone – it might be Nelson Mandela or the old man who guards the stage door – but he is always working for someone other than himself. This focus gives his acting purpose and makes his work rich.”
Pink adds, “You can do the same. Dedicate your own work – a presentation, a sales call, a report – to someone you admire or who matters in your life. You can infuse your work with purpose and meaning when you think of it as a gift.”
Recently I encouraged my acting students to think about whom they might dedicate their work to. Scene work on a given day, their work for the semester, anything else which helps inspire gift giving in their work.
Actors work hard to discover within themselves, from their own lives, experiences which will make a character they play believable, compelling, and above all, truthful. That work can sometimes be painfully difficult, reaching back to agony most of us prefer to deny, forget, and leave behind by any means possible. That painful sharing is an actor’s gift to the story they are helping to tell and to the audience they are telling the story to.
Tonight, my wonderfully gifted daughter, Elizabeth Hope Williams, opens on stage in a new show in Chicago, CCX. You can go here to learn more about the show and Elizabeth: http://ccxplay.com/ . Read Elizabeth’s biography. You’ll see that she has chosen to dedicate her performance to her brother, William. You need to know that William died barely three months ago, as a result of a heroin overdose. You need to know that Elizabeth will be portraying a heroin addict. You need to know, or at least be reminded, that as a family we made a pledge at William’s memorial service: “We promise to do everything in our power to educate and inform people about drug abuse and its prevention, to provide ever more enlightened treatment for addicts, to help make treatment options for addicts more readily available, and to remove the stain of shame surrounding this disease.”
Finally, you must know how proud I am of Elizabeth’s courage, generosity, and artistry. She is, as I said above, wonderfully gifted. For the next five weeks she dedicates a wonderful gift to our William. Art from pain. Thank you Elizabeth.