How do you go from background extra to leading man? Listen to acting legend Bryan Cranston's pragmatic advice.
How did Bryan Cranston get to where he is? Luck, talent, and a personal numerical system he uses to pick his roles. The system — which he calls CAPS, or Cranston Assessment of Projects — is a little tongue-in-cheek in name but has allowed Bryan to go from Malcolm in the Middle to Breaking Bad to his latest project, Richard Linklater's veteran drama Last Flag Flying. While most actors might pick their roles based on the paycheck or how high it might raise their profile, Bryan has been able to pick his roles based on story and how happy the project might make him feel. It's a great lesson about good decision making. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a better teacher than Bryan, a man who's gone from "Party Boy #2" to the Hollywood A-list. Bryan Cranston's new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.
The acting giant talks about how those in the corporate and business worlds could take a page from artists... simply by embracing a reward system not rooted in hard metrics.
Actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Trumbo, Last Flag Flying) is easily one of the greatest actors of his generation. But he has a remarkable perspective on art and how its tenets might be useful to other areas of life. For instance, Bryan posits, don't get into something unless your heart is fully in it. This applies to actors signing up for projects they're not earnestly invested in just as much as it does people working in jobs they aren't passionate about. "Trust your feelings. Trust your instincts," Bryan says, because embracing ambiguity instead of looking at life as a series of steps leading to a goal can lead to a much healthier outlook. Bryan Cranston's new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.
California prisons are about as off-off-off-off Broadway as it gets—but that's where the emotional tools of theatre can make the biggest difference to people's lives.\r\n
In the last 35 years, California has built approximately 22 new prisons, and the state has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. The US's prison industrial complex has been called America's human rights crisis. So is it possible for prisoners have hope for their future? How do you retain your humanity in an inhumane system? Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actor's Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them the emotional tools needed to heal from the trauma of being incarcerated, and all the events of their lives before that. That was the start of the Prison Project, and a decade later it is operating in 10 prisons across California. How well has it worked? It has transformed prison yards. It has built bridges between gangs. Participants have just a 10% recidivism rate and in-prison infractions have dropped by 89%. Engaging in the safe and playful space of theatre is a way for incarcerated people to engage with their emotions, often for the very first time. The entire prison community is deeply interwoven and affected by each other, so the Prison Project is developing a program for correctional officers too, who are often highly traumatized by their experiences, and have highest suicide rate of any job. Sabra Williams runs us through the Prison Project, and introduces former-inmate and student Chris Bingley to share his personal story of reconnecting with his humanity while in prison. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.
Director Diane Paulus delivers a crash course in team dynamics, how to nurture creativity, and the importance of obsession in a good leader.
As she explains the architecture of her creative process, Diane Paulus provides a crash course in leadership and team dynamics. Paulus knows collaboration well: she’s the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University, and has directed numerous Broadway productions. Teams work to their full potential when each member has genuine input and space to be creative – the director has to steer the project, but nothing squashes motivation like micro-management. Directing a project – even beyond the theatre world – requires you to remove yourself from what the project ideally will be, and ask tough questions while it’s under construction to keep it on track: like ‘Why should an audience care?’ and ‘Why are we doing this?’. If you’re not satisfied with your answers, your audience (or product user) won’t be either. "In the arts… there can be a lot of blaming the audience for the lack of engagement," Paulus says. "I'm a producer and an artist, I actually have a chance to take a little responsibility for maybe why the audience has left the building." There is a bounty of wisdom to be gleaned from Paulus’ experiences in the theatre: never stop learning and adapting your product, don’t just see what you want to see – find flaws, know that too much hierarchy will make your team stale, and be obsessed – positive mania is infectious in a team. Find more about Diane Paulus at www.dianepaulus.net.
The happiest moments of our lives are when we lose ourselves – in art, in exercise, in love. According to Harvard's Diane Paulus, being able to 'play' and engage in something outside of ourselves is a valuable respite from our egos.
It takes a brave adult to play. It’s a kind of subordination, a lessening of your status, a silly exhibition of the child you once were. And that, says Diane Paulus, is why it’s so essential.
Paulus is the Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater (ART) at Harvard University, so a good percentage of her day is spent encouraging and directing people to appreciate the art of make-believe. What she realized in doing so, and what she’s experienced in her own life, is that losing yourself in something frees you from your ego.
Whether you go for a jog, or paint something, or have sex, or watch a film so absorbing you forget to even eat one kernel of your popcorn – that's a respite from your cerebral, inward-focused self, and that respite is crucial in an age that’s obsessed with the ‘me’, with celebrity, and that's plagued by status anxiety. Play is the great equalizer, as Paulus says: "For me it's come when I've been part of a group. And I think it's because I did theater as a kid and I always found, that moment when you could be with a group of people, and it didn't matter, you didn't matter anymore. And of course you matter because you're bringing all of your heart and your soul and your mind to it, but you're involved in something larger than yourself."
Paulus presents the elegant version of Tyler Durden’s message: "you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake", a sentiment that urges us to live beyond our own limits, to not be caught up in the trapping of our ego, which insists that we are special, and is angry when we’re not treated as such.
Theatre is the way Paulus loses herself; so go out and see a show. Climb a mountain. Read a book. Have sex. Be an audience to something other than yourself. Don’t be afraid to play.Find more about Diane Paulus at www.dianepaulus.net