Week 20 | Artist 20: Created to Create 2016 | Danielle Carter, Actor/Writer/Teacher
I was born in Sydney, Australia. While still at school I landed a regular role on the 80’s Australian television series, Richmond Hill. I then traveled around the country in Debra Oswald’s classic Australian play Dags. I knew there was so much I didn’t know about acting and that I needed to train. To explore and hone my craft. The jobs were not enough. I auditioned, studied then graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) with an acting degree and have worked extensively in film, television and theatre in Australia and New Zealand since.
I have been a series regular on television shows such as Mal. COM, Something in the Air and Medivac. I have also worked for most major theatre companies in Australia and have toured regionally and nationally with new Australian works.
My international productions include Knowing, The Lost World, Beast Master, Tales of the South Seas, Flipper, Salem’s Lot and Fearless.
Where do you live and work?
I currently live in Melbourne but I travel all around the country for work. I love that about this job.
What fuels your desire to act?
My curiosity. My innate desire to know more and to discover more. About myself, about what it means to be human and most importantly about life. My curiosity demands that I take the work deeper and to possibly more profound places. To seek the truth in the work and in seeking truth, finding freedom. To listen to what the script or piece is trying to say. What does it want to reveal? To myself and to the audience. I believe as artists we are serving humanity. I believe we can instigate great change in the world by what we do.
The best thing about being an artist is...
Are the worlds you get to discover. All the worlds I have been lucky enough to uncover help me understand humanity just a little bit more. It gets me closer to understanding why we are here. What you get to reveal to a listening audience is extraordinary. What we get to illuminate, to offer, to dazzle, to uncover, to reveal, to educate to purge, to heal, to expose, to awaken and to free. What could be more delicious than sharing this with a community?
The biggest obstacle in working with self is...
Making space so that I can be quiet. Life is busy and there is so much noise pollution in the world. The planet moves at a faster rate. Or at least faster than it did when I was a child. I need to try and slow it down when I work. Time in a way has to stand still. If I’m rehearsing purposefully, I need the quiet so I can listen to where my creative impulses and body want to take me.
Once that hurdle has been jumped, it’s all relatively smooth sailing from there. Some days this is much harder than others.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Care less about the outcome and focus on the journey. Don’t worry-stop with the worry. It’s not going to change anything. Have fun at auditions. Don’t take it all so personally or seriously. Don’t let getting a job define you as an actor. The same with getting the job – that shouldn’t define you either. You’re still the same actor whether you get the gig or not. It’s all about the work.
I think I spent a long time being very focused on getting jobs and comparing myself to everybody else. We are all unique. Best you don’t compare yourself, as if you’re in it for the long haul, the race is long. I was also crippled in my late teens until my early 30’s with a nagging lack of self-confidence. It plagued me as a young woman and I think infiltrated some of my work. I look back and I want to shout to my younger self – WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!
As Jeanette Winterson wrote in The Passion “You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play."
Are there any rituals you created to help ‘self face’ avoidance that plagues every artist occasionally. Describe what works for you.
The one ritual that has helped lately (and possibly the most affective) is what can I experiment with/discover about the piece during this audition? So instead of going into the room to get the job, I now go in to see what I can find. I do my initial work and have choices made, but I leave a gap for the gold to come. More often than not, I find that it does. It’s amazing what can happen to one’s work when you find the ease and you release any sense of gripping. With both the work and wishing for a certain outcome. Living in the unknown and embracing it has been a true delight and awakening for me.
I have to thank the Michael Chekhov Technique for this and the extraordinary teachers I encountered last year in America. In particular Joanna Merlin, Ted Pugh, Fern Sloan, Ragnar Freidank, John McManus and the unstoppable Bethany Caputo. All of who encouraged me to pursue my own delicious questions about the work. They encourage investigation.
I also meet with an extraordinary friend and actress each week (Week Two’s Artist in Created to Create– Louise Siversen) where we play, discover, search, experiment and strip back. We raise questions about acting. We explore the Michael Chekhov technique and we try and answer those questions. It’s our theatre lab, if you like. I don’t think we have ever had a session that I walked away from not learning something monumental.
It’s one of the highlights of my week. I never know what we are going to find.
Talk about a piece of work that you experienced recently that moved you and how it has found a place in your work?
The last piece of theatre I saw that really moved me and has impacted my work was The Theatre of Nations, Miss Julie as part of the 2015 Lincoln Center Festival. Directed by Thomas Ostermeir, it was sublime. Everything you wish theatre could be - it was. It was a magical night and a truly inspired theatrical event.
What I loved about the Russian actors was that they made no apologies. They told the story without excuses or judgements. They embraced the story. They embraced the characters. It was the ugly side of humanity in all its beautiful mess. They told the story with its brutality and cruelty and it was a visual feast. It was the first time I had watched Miss Julie and completely understood why she kills herself and what Strindberg was aiming for when he wrote the piece.
It was a wonderful reminder to never pull back. To play the truth of the situation, character and story. Which I have always known and have tried to do, but the Russians took it to a whole different level. It was riveting and magnificent!
What other art form do you connect to? How does this craft/ discipline help you in your work?
I get such inspiration from reading. Plays, novels, poetry, biographies, and acting texts – anything really. Reading is one of my greatest loves and aside from acting is truly when I’m happiest. To get lost in ideas, opinions, and your imagination is my idea of bliss.
The more I know as an artist the better choices I’ll make. It’s as plain and simple as that. It’s my responsibility to my art to be continually learning and evolving as a human being.
All art forms ignite my passion and creativity. I love them all and I find them all informative to my work.
Describe your ritual or a productive day at work?
I find I have to move in some way. It could be Pilates, Yoga, Walking – any form of exercise helps kick everything into gear. It helps open portals. Exercise, space, so I can listen. I have to
read somewhere in my day.
Exercise gives me ideas and thoughts about whatever project I’m doing. It helps me listen.
Describe effective techniques you use to increase your focus/productivity when working on a job?
I have to have done all my research before I hit the floor and rehearse a play, otherwise my mind becomes a little clunky and I feel turgid. My acting becomes heavy as I think I’m overcompensating for my lack of rigor. I become very self-aware, which I loathe. Many actors have differing views on research, but I LOVE it. It helps make the world real for me. The character real for me. It helps the magic ‘As if ‘. I completely buy into the given circumstances if I have been able to immerse myself into the world of the piece. It makes it very easy for me to believe and imagine and it helps me make choices that I mightn’t otherwise make. If I believe, so can the audience.
I’ll work with a vocal coach and play around with vocal choices or make sure that I’m on top of whatever accent is required. So when I get to the floor I’m free and can play as openly as possible. I can use rehearsal time for what it’s meant for- to experiment.
I cut communication pretty much with the outside world and just focus on the task at hand. I hate dealing with everyday life when I’m rehearsing. I try and streamline my life.
When rehearsing a play, I make sure I never know the date. I avoid it at all costs. I want to make believe I have all the time in the world before opening. I try to be fully present each and every day. I can do this if I don’t know the date.
I will also rent a space and explore before I get up on the rehearsal room floor. As budgets get cut, rehearsal becomes less and less. Again, I have to feel that time stands still. This for me is so important. Doing this sort of prep helps the dream work begin before rehearsals start.
How do you reward yourself for a job well done?
Binge watching anything written by Woody Allen, Larry David or Aaron Sorkin. Or anything directed by Rob Reiner.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project. What CREATED TO CREATE INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016. When Beginning, January, 1st, 2016 Who ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order. Goal Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.