We all know this person. Sometimes we will be impressed by them for a short time. They are so supremely confident. All of the answers to everything are at their command. Just ask them … anything!
I have known for 68 years now that ‘knowing everything’ is A) not possible, and B) not to be wished for. In fact it is extremely detrimental!
I will speak particularly of this malady as it occurs in my area of expertise … live theatre. Beware, it can happen at any age. No one is born with it. It does not, thank heavens, appear to be contagious. So how do you become infected?
All actors receive praise via applause. This is good and healthy. However, well meaning family and friends can often go overboard. We’ve all heard them raving, sometimes long after the show, about their son, daughter, husband, friend. They say such things as, “I can’t believe how good you were.” ” You really were that character.” “You’re just a natural.” “You were better than Broadway.” “Did you see what he/she did? Wasn’t it unbelievable?”
You hear this once or twice and you’re safe. If this is constant, you risk getting an enlarged head. Soon you realize that you are indeed better than every other actor in the universe. This, however, is not true.
It is also self defeating. I have witnessed this many a time. Try as I might not to cast these folks, every now and I then I slip up. Some are good enough actors to fool me at an audition. However it doesn’t take long for their superior selves to emerge.
The sad thing is they generally have some ability. However they can’t work WITH other people (which is what live theatre is all about) because they (think they are) are better actors than the others. It is impossible for them to take direction, because they know everything. They tend not to work at all. Saying such things as, “I’m saving myself for the audience.” That, friends, is garbage!
Those who are thusly afflicted have effectively stopped any and all possibility for growth … professionally and personally. Live theatre and life is meant to be interactive, which means interacting is a must. Plus, if you already know everything then what is the point? I would surely perish without questions to ask, and constant new moments that take my breath away. Life is much more exciting not knowing everything!
Diane Crews, Artistic Director and Playwright in Residence