A few months back, we wrote about Paul Clayton’s latest book, The Working Actor, which was in stores from the 5th of May. We were so excited about this book that we asked Paul to share some of his thoughts with us, post launch. Without further ado, here’s Paul in his own words.
You’re in a rehearsal room working with a group of fellow actors. You’re being collaborative, and together with your director, stage manager, and possibly an assistant stage manager, you form a tightly grip group of people who are creating something rather special. Then there comes a day, usually in the last week of rehearsal, when the doors to the rehearsal room are thrown open and people are admitted to WATCH what you been doing. They may be perfectly nice people, empathetic people, and people who will eventually be part of the project with you – designers, costume designers, lighting designers, sound technicians – but on that particular day, they are strangers, and showing the work you have created in what has up ’til now been a private space, your rehearsal room, is always edged with worry.
We shouldn’t really be worried. Theatre is really only of any value if it has an audience. What we are doing is telling stories, and if there is no one to tell them to, then the point of what we do ceases to be. How nice it will be a week later, after technicals and previews, when we put this story in its rightful place, on a stage in front of people who will react to it, respond to it, and hopefully be entertained, educated, and enlightened by it.
In much the same way, this is the process of writing a book. For two years “The Working Actor” existed only in my mind and in the manuscript on my Macintosh. Then with the press of a button, it is sent to my editor for him to comment on, and offer feedback. It’s been a very private process, but now the input of somebody else has to be taken on board. I have a brilliant editor who added immeasurably to the worth of my book, just as brilliant designers and lighting designers have added to the worth of productions I have directed over the years.
Now the book is out there in front of the audience, telling its story, and hopefully in doing so, helping other people get the opportunity to tell theirs. Just as I love playing comedy with the instant feedback of laughter, so I love Twitter, where the feedback for my book has been posted with great love and affection. The feedback has been phenomenally positive. I feel incredibly lucky, but also I’m beginning to feel a little satisfied. Just like getting the laughs in a good comedy, the information in the book seems to be hitting home. It’s a book full of personal opinions, but not just mine. In the world of being an actor there are no right answers, but there are lots of choices. Choices that will prove more effective than others. Sharing the opinions of casting directors, agents, voice-over agents, accountants, financial experts, and motivational coaches, all of whom know their stuff, enables me to parcel up a little bit of help and give it to the people who have been kind enough to open the cover of The Working Actor and peer inside.
If the advice contained therein helps just one person get just one piece of work, then it’s done its job. It’s been thrilling to have people tweet that “enlightenment seeps from between the covers” and it feels just like getting those first laughs from the rehearsal room audience. It’s a nice assurance that you’re doing something right, even if the journey isn’t finished yet.
The book’s now available on Kindle, which to a geek like me is even more of a thrill. And maybe next month I will be able to talk to you about just how to make that first long summer after drama school really work in your favour, and there’ll be no mention of my book.
Paul’s second book The Working Actor was published on May 5th. He is also Chairman at The Actors Centre in London and is currently overseeing The Alan Bates Award 2016. For more about Paul you can visit his site: paulclayton.biz