THE FOUR PRINCIPLES: Applying the Keys of Brilliant Acting to Life
Many years ago as I was trying to create a career as an actress, facing
numerous rejections, closed doors, my own lack of self-esteem, and
the endless battle to be thin enough, I was outdoors skipping rope
in my plastic sweat-off-the-fat leggings when I hit The Wall of Despondency.
I fell to my knees and screamed at the sky, “Help me! I don’t know how to do
this thing called life! Gimmee a manual! Or at least gimmee a hint!”
These four principles, I believe, are the answer to that fervent prayer.
The principles were always there, but it took me some years to see them
and many more years to hone and expand my understanding of them. I
have spent years teaching them to others and will spend the rest of my years
mastering them as fully as I am able.
They came to me through an odd doorway, perhaps, through
acting and more importantly, through teaching acting to others. It is an
interesting and unusual path to enlightenment, but the Universe will use
anything, it seems, to wake us up. We all have our own paths. Diverse as
they are, these principles I believe apply to them all.
If I could, I would write this book on a ball. None of the principles
would be first and all of them would be first—and last. In fact, these
principles are not complete unless they are together. The ball would have
no top, bottom, beginning, middle or end. You can’t know what you’re
truly committed to until you are present, but you can’t be present unless
you are willing (relaxation), and can’t move along your path without
communication. And, as soon as you commit to something, the barriers
begin to pop up, so you have to be present to get past them—on and on
around the ball, turning it over and over rolling with it through life. You
have to keep it moving in order to fulfill the four principles.
And that’s what this whole book is about—creating movement—movement along
the path of your heart’s desires—movement towards your realization as
a human being.
However, I have to approach this in a linear way with language. Aha! I
thought. I’ll put the book on a spiral binding with four different covers, so
that the reader could start anywhere! Each principle would be the beginning
or the end of the book. So, I wrote this version of the book with that in
mind. That idea became complicated in actuality, so I chose to begin with
the Being Present principle. For me, personally, that’s where I must begin.
You, however, can open the book at any principle you choose and start with
that one. Start with whatever draws you. It’s up to you.
In the original version—many versions and many years ago—I began
the book with Commitment. That was when the book was called The
Creative Explosion: A Simple Guide to Brilliant Acting. It started out in my
mind to be a book about acting. The book wanted to be about something
else altogether. I resisted it and struggled with it. Finally I let it become
what it wanted to be about—how these principles of acting apply to life. I
have found over the years as a teacher that brilliance is not all that difficult
or unusual. Brilliant acting and writing happen in my classes every week.
What’s difficult is getting those gifts out into the world, following one’s
authentic path, and staying the course with grace.
I have also found that the theatrical stage and the everyday life stage
are, in many respects one and the same. As John Patrick Shanley said in
the author’s notes of A Dreamer Examines His Pillow, “Writing is acting is
directing is living your life . . . . I see no difference between writing a play
and living my life. The same things that make a moment in my life succeed,
combust, move, these same things make a moment in my playwriting have
life. And when I move in my writing, I have moved in my life. There is no
illusion. It is all the same thing. Acting is the same as playwriting.”
Personally, I think being an actor is the most difficult of the three because
our bodies, who we are as people is all we have. We have no instruments or
particular skills to fall back on . . . nothing but ourselves. To be a successful
actor demands great self-mastery. On the one hand we must be able to be both
completely open and vulnerable and on the other have the emotional stamina
to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous rejections and criticism.
Along the way to this mastery and success are all sorts of hidden traps and
demons. It is a life of great extremes: feast and famine, success and failure,
riches and bankruptcy. If we fail at this self-mastery, we fall into addictions
and the low road to hell. If we succeed . . . not in becoming stars, but in
becoming more self-aware than most professions demand, it is a glorious
Many people become actors because of an unexpressed yearning for the
love and approval they never got as children. When they mature, they learn
that the greatest satisfaction comes when they express their love and their
light fully instead of trying to get the approval or love they never had. Of
course the same can be said of life.
As the purpose of the book changed, what never changed are the four
principles. They are the same. They have been the same since they appeared
to me many years ago. The change has been my understanding, respect, and
experience of them. I was focused more on material fulfillment. They have
always been aimed at spiritual fulfillment.
My struggle against the book is often the struggle that artists go through
with their own creations: letting them be what they want to be. It’s the same
struggle we have with our own lives. It’s the same struggle parents have with
a child—letting the child be who s/he wants to be. (“S/he”, by the way is my
quirky way of representing she and he quickly. It’s throughout the book.)
It was my students who began telling me that the principles were affecting
more than their acting—that they were affecting their lives. In a natural
progression of the realization of the principles, I began doing a two-day
workshop called The Creative Explosion. The purpose of the workshop is
to “create the energy to start what hasn’t been started and to blast through
the blocks that are in the way of going where you want to go.” It is about
movement and self-empowerment.
I have conducted four or five of those
workshops every year over the last 15 years and graduated from being the
“leader” of the workshop to what I call a “felicitator”—turning it over to
the participants more and more. The workshop has become more powerful
as a result.
My stance in my classes, my workshops, and in this book is what I call
being a “spiritual friend.” I am not a guru, and I do not believe in pretending
to some Godlike stance. In fact, watching the downfall of certain gurus and
powerful spiritual leaders has taught me how dangerous that is. I do my best
to maintain humility and an eye level stance with my students. I am an equal
participant. I am human. I have lots of cracks and crevices, and wounded places.
Therefore, I express these principles in a very personal way. I am continuing to
grow and expand through these principles myself. I am not “there” yet. In fact,
there is no “there” to get to . . . only surprising new levels and places.
I have watched as the four principles help people open to a creative
energy that is larger than they are and challenges them to expand. This
enormous Creative Force uses our unique talents and personalities to heal
and enlighten, make us laugh, feel, and open our hearts. It connects us with
one another. It relieves our pain and fear, and teaches us to experience joy
When we can use that energy and let it use us, it is a powerful,
spiritual experience. This Creative Force is what we desire in our hearts; yet
because it is so powerful, it often terrifies us. The Four Principles help us
to get through that terror.
This empowerment and spiritual enrichment is why I am so committed
to creativity. The act of creation is like throwing a new vision of ourselves
out into the future. Once it is created, we must grow up to it in order to
take care of it. We create a child and we must grow up ourselves in order to
take care of it. We can turn away. We can reject it, but it is there forever. It
may take years to allow, embrace, and empower our creations, but it is worth
the time and effort.
Artists must empower themselves in order to take care
of their own creations. Our creations are our own teachers and our gifts to
the world to be received however they are received.
Some months after I had “finished” this book, I came upon the realization
I had more to write. It was a lovely, warm October morning. I was sitting
on my deck looking out at the woods during a period of silence at the
beginning of a Creative Explosion workshop. After this short silence, we
all write down what it is we want to get out of the workshop (I am always
a participant in my workshops as well as being the “felicitator”). The word
“mystery” popped into my mind. “It’s another chapter in the book,” I heard.
That thought startled me.
“Does that mean that Mystery is a fifth principle?” I wondered
“No,” came the answer clearly and distinctly. “Mystery is not a Fifth
Principle. Mystery is what is at the center of all the principles. It is what
surrounds them all. It is what connects them. It is what one experiences
when one fully realizes any of the principles.”
It seems this book will never be finished. Someone may just have to rip
it out of my hands. Or, I may just have to let go. Well, clearly, this book is
considerably bigger than I am. With each version I have had to grow to meet
it and care for it. It has put me through my paces. I have resisted it, yet it
insists on being. I have judged myself for hubris, yet it constantly reminds
me that it is a gift to be received by those who want and need it. My heartfelt
wish is that my communication of the four principles is good enough to do
them justice and help the readers along the path of their heart’s desires.