Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Competition vs Creativity

The idea of competition has been on my mind lately. I think on some level, competition can be healthy if the spirit of it is kept on growth. But I would say that competition itself isn't healthy because it can create a lot of negative qualities such as aggressiveness, greediness, selfishness, anxiety... I think you get the point.

And I know a little bit about competition. I am first and foremost an actor. Always wanted to be one since I was a little girl. There was something inside of me that knew I needed to perform. I was really shy growing up and began to come out of my shell during high school when I became a typical drama geek. My other drama geek friends and I would read plays, put them up during the school year, took every drama class available, went to the Stratford and Shaw festivals and even attempted at writing a play. After realizing what a terrible and purposeless script it was, we dropped it and never finished it. We produced another show, though, in the summer in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

Needless to say, acting is one of the most competitive businesses out there. Everyone seems to want to be a star without any prior training. Mind you, there are the rare few who have done it, like my man Johnny Depp. But I think it is because those few are the real deal, the true actors. Anyhow, when it was time for me to choose my major in University, I auditioned for several acting programs and some design programs (something I was also good at but not passionate about). I wasn't accepted to any of the acting programs and I was CRUSHED! There I was, thinking I could be an actor and I couldn't even get into an acting program. Another friend of mine, who auditioned as well, got into several. I was happy for her but that was definitely the beginning, or I should say  the continuation of my complex with competing against other people.

There was another moment in University where I had auditioned for a part for the year's production. I, again, did not get in but another girl did. I remember thinking that it was ridiculous and unfair that she got in because I was so much better than her. I just didn't get it. I was angry and frustrated with the world and became really bitter and broken for awhile. It did me no good. And it was no one's fault but my own. I forgive myself for that. I was childish and insecure.

I think this began to change when I woke one day and decided, I made the CHOICE, not to let that determine my behavior and how I looked at the world. I was still sure in my heart and gut I not only wanted, but needed to do this work. And that for me changed everything. I decided to change my major from Design for the Theatre to Major in Theatre and take as many acting classes as possible. I was determined to learn as much as I could about acting from as many teachers and friends who would help me. I started focusing on my work and not on the work of others. It was then I began to see what I could offer, what I was capable of. I remember during a one-on-one feedback session with an acting teacher, someone I deeply respected and seeked approval from. He sat me down and said "Chantria, everything you are doing is great. The intentions are there and you are engaging to watch. I just can't hear you." So that told me two things. 1) I did it! I was on my way to becoming the actor I always dreamed of being. And 2) I needed to work on my voice. Do you think I went away and cried about it? No! I thought, great! Now who can teach me how to use my voice properly?

I was also frustrated at the fact that there were no decent Asian female roles in film and television, let alone theatre. Again, I blamed the outside world. It was the industry's fault, it was the directors faults, it was the so-and-so's fault. Eventually I got tired and got creative. I thought, "Well, if the roles and the project aren't going to come to me, then I will just create it!" So I did. I started writing and turned it into a one-woman show, Someone Between. With an amazing team of people who also believed in the project, we self-produced it in 2008 in Montreal and have been presenting it ever since. I am now in the middle of grants to remount it in Toronto. And I have met some incredible people since I started this journey; artists, educators, audience members from all sorts of communities and it continues to grow.

There comes a point when we have to stop blaming our present given circumstances and take some sort of responsibility for where we are, doing what we are doing. And then, let go of it and think creativity! Think what can be and go out make it happen. Most of us are too busy looking to the right and to the left, at our "competitors", to look ahead at our own goals. That is detrimental to our learning, growing and happiness. As an actor there are so many factors that are out of my hand. So I know there is only one competitor in my mind and that is myself. I know what I need to work on and I will seek to get it. Now when I go on auditions and sit in the waiting room, I smile at my fellow actors and wish them to "break a leg". And it's actually sincere.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes, passed down to me from my acting coach and mentor. I read it once in awhile, but especially when I'm not feeling so hot. And it lifts me  back up. I hope it does the same for you.

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and there is only one of you in all of time. This expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares to other expression. It is  your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

                                                                                                                                 *Martha Graham

Let the world see your expression.
And those are my thoughts tonight.



  1. Great insight! Thank you for sharing. Your words inspired me when I was feeling a little down......I have only myself to look to and I always want to keep creativity in my life.

  2. You're absolutely right, Chia~