“Do Unto Others…”


Dear Friends of the Actors Center,

Now in our 19th year, I welcome this opportunity to reach out to all our friends and colleagues, letting you know that we are still alive and kicking. The times may be tough, but our spirits are high because the work that we do means so much to us.  And, we believe to you as well. Our work could be seen as spiritual, and I hope you will indulge me in my personal journey.

As many of you now know, I grew up in a rural area in upstate New York, on a farm, 3 miles from the nearest person my age. It was not until my early teens that I had more human friends than farm animal friends. My Dad was up and out by 4am, so my primary influence was my mother and the animals. All three guided me by example, but the open fields and endless sky often left me feeling small and lonely. At a very early age I began to wonder where I fit in.

My mother’s almost-daily admonition, as I left the house, was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I began to question that idea when I started school, but soon understood its practicality. I stayed largely tethered to the farm until I was 12. My personal horizon was what I experienced from day to day: feed the cattle, clean the barn, mow the field.  But somehow those open skies began to talk to me, make me feel there was something missing. (I had yet to read Eugene O’Neill.)   I felt adrift and began writing stories about the life I was experiencing. None of them had anything to do with “Do unto others….”

The next year I won a scholarship to a school that nourished my writing ambitions as well as my fantasy of playing shortstop for the Yankees. I entered college to pursue a writing career, though I had no idea what that entailed. Two years later, I found the campus theatre and all manner of things started to happen. In my senior year I played the Witch Boy in Dark of the Moon, and was asked to audition for a Broadway play as a result. A stint in the army then intervened in my acting career. While on furlough, quite by chance, I met one of the great acting teachers of his time, Michel St. Denis.  He spent hours with me, helping me understand the nature and purpose of actor training. I knew that I worked as an actor purely on instinct; that I had no idea of what the art of acting entailed or its underlying purposes. I set out to follow Michel’s journey. In doing so, I discovered my own. It has been more than 50 years since I met Michel. For all of that time, I have been pleased to follow my mother’s dictum: “Do unto others as Michel did for thee.”

Why is the actor such a significant player in our lives? Because she/he serves as our surrogate. She/he plays versions of the roles we struggle to play in life. They hold the mirror that not only reflects ourselves, but helps us understand ourselves. Historically, actors were surrogates for the gods and regarded as priests in many cultures. Today, actors are not only helpful, they should be seen as a necessary part of our lives. For me, they fill that promise in the open sky of my youth.

Please help me help them to serve you.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season, and may 2015 bring sanity and peace to this splintered world.

Keep the faith,

J. Michael Miller
Founder & President
The Actors Center


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 and is filed under Food for Thought. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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