What’s my motivation?

Generally, it’ll be the most pretentious person in the company who ends up uttering the immortal query ‘But what’s my motivation?’ when asked to move to the side of the stage, sit down or stand in a particular place in a grouping.  Generally the answer should be ‘because I said so’, or ‘because if you stay there, you’ll be in Fred’s way when he comes in’, but many directors will give in and supply a motivation, generally very spurious.  Personally, if I have to do something that doesn’t make all that much sense, I’ll just go with it unless I really, really think that my character wouldn’t do it.  Come up with any old reason, or at least make it look as though you (both actor and character) know why you’re now standing behind the chair, and everything will generally be fine.  There are more important things to worry about, and I have found that if the reason for your character’s actions is at all significant, you’ll already know what it is.

But that’s not the focus of this particular bit of rambling, which is about a different sort of motivation.  Recently I have been wondering what my motivation is for performing in the first place.  It’s certainly not money, as I don’t get paid for my travails (in fact, shows generally cost me a significant amount of cash).  It’s not fame, as I’m quite content to be in the chorus, and have sometimes being literally unrecognisable.  Is it art?  Do I do it in search of truth and beauty, and if so why does my list of roles include parts in Me and My Girl and Grease?  Is it simply for fun?  For the challenge?  To meet new people?  Because I can?

My conclusion?  I really don’t know at all.  Which is a little odd.  However, it’s definitely possible that if you asked a whole bunch of amateur performers why they do it, you’d be met with puzzled looks and general confusion.  Can there really be any sane reason for such bizarre behaviour?

When I do a show, I want to have fun, but I also expect a lot of myself.  I have to do everything, whether I’m in the chorus or a main role, to the best of my ability.  Spend as long as it takes to learn those dance steps and do them without looking at my feet.    Sing the harmonies in my sleep.  Know the structure of the show inside out, from the order of scenes and musical numbers, to which side of the stage everyone enters from.  Make my character real, even if they’re silly.  All of this is probably why I get so stressed once the performance rolls around, as I’ll have been living and breathing the show for quite some time and it absolutely has to be right.

So what is my motivation?  A neurotic quest for perfection maybe.  A drive to improve myself.  A desire to be, like Wolverine, the best there is at what I do.  Who knows?  Whatever the motivation is, it must be a strong one.  And I’d love to know what all you other performers and writers think of as your own motivation.  Or do we not have a choice?  Maybe we do it because we have to.

  1. My initial reaction to this post was annoyance! However, I’m not actually sure why!

  2. It is the challenge of it all, I think. Learning a new score, expanding your abilities, enjoying the careraderie of the cast — all beneficial and good things. Keeps your brain active, therefore healthy and young.

    Isn’t it fun too? It sounds like it is fun, even when you are climbing over scenery in the dark on a deadline for an entrance, there is a fun factor. Certainly it gives you amusing stories to tell.

    Does there have to be more to it than you like it? Sometimes we over analyze.

  3. On reflection, now I’m not feeling annoyed, your motivation is probably all of those things you listed and also that you enjoy it (most of the time!).

  4. My motivation has changed over time. When I was interested in doing major parts it was a different set of reasons than I would give today.
    Nowadays it is much more about the enjoyment I get from singing with a group of people and the pleasure of seeing the production develop and reach a final stage of performance.
    It is also about the social side of being with a group of people who have similar interests and enjoying their company.

  5. I suppose it has been the lack of enjoyment in certain things recently that prompted my motivational musings. Hmm, maybe I do indeed do it for the anecdotes!

    I suspect Lilian reached a ‘Singing Librarian Tolerance Threshold’. I’m surprised people don’t reach those more often…

  6. Dear Singing Librarian,

    I would not want you to think that I had reached any kind of ‘Singing Librarian Tolerance Threshold’. Please stop saying such mean things about yourself. I think, if anything, my annoyance was prompted by envy of your talents (for which I ask your forgiveness) and perhaps just a smidgen of irritation at the amount of analysis going on. However, if I had thought about things properly I would have realised what prompted your self-analysis and not been so quick to be annoyed!

  7. 🙂 My metaphorical tongue is normally firmly lodged in my metaphorical cheek when I say mean things about myself. Well, maybe not normally. Sometimes at least!

  8. I think I need to ask Father Christmas for a metaphorical tongue in cheek detector.

    ( =

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