Yesterday, I watched a guy on Periscope leading a sort of spiritual seminar. He was seated on a throne, like the one Bikram uses in the yoga studio. His manner of speaking was gentle and soothing, just the tone of voice to adopt while offering great insight into the wonders of the higher astral planes.
I tuned in during the afternoon, while exploring the app, which I had only just installed on my iphone. Kind of fun, actually. I also watched a lady filming a parade at Disney, and noticed one guy was broadcasting an ice hockey game! Cannot imagine the NHL is terribly happy about that.
The spiritual guru guy was interesting. When people came up to him, he invited them to sit and chat. Then gave them a meditation to practice. Breathe in the healing, breathe out the pain. Like that. I had it playing in the background, while I answered email and read up on the primary election results. Later in the evening, I came back to the guy’s channel, to see if he was still at it. He was.
Sitting with a lovely young lady, offering profound sounding wisdom concerning her present relationship. She should embrace the journey. Be grateful for the lessons she has attracted through her partner. Catch phrases, ubiquitous at the height of the new age movement in the 1980s, now usually only heard at Burning Man.
Even so, he clearly meant well, and was doing no harm. She was off camera, but judging from her voice, she seemed to be drinking up the healing energy. The mystical advice. Channeled from a place of divine love and received with gratitude.
Then something richly comic happened. When the guy got up and stepped out of the room for a few minutes, the girl took his place in the frame. She climbed onto the throne, crossed her legs into Lotus pose and, within seconds, was spouting her own selection of deep cosmic truths. In her best ASMR voice, she launched into an homily about the search for inner peace.
This girl, who had spent the past couple of hours at the feet of the affable Periscope Tzaddick, was now herself an authority on all things spiritual. Hang the shingle. Put out the cup. For five cents, the doctor is in.
When the guy came back, he simply sat next to her and allowed her to continue. Nodding in approval here and there. Two kids learning to ride a bike.
“Okay, let me have a try.”
It was like those videos that were going around not long ago. It gets better. The point was to encourage young gay people not to give up hope when things were bleak. That later in life, they would be able to appreciate how they overcame adversity and thrived. Some of these were truly inspiring, and touching.
In no time at all, those same young kids, the intended audience, began filming their own videos. Talking earnestly about how it gets better. As if, in the sixteen or so years they have been on Earth, they have amassed a lifetime of experience in rising above, reaching beyond, enduring, striving, surviving. They became, each one of them, experts on the matter. Icons of the gay community, worthy of admiration. Emulation. How brave those fighters for equality. How knowledgable and mature.
Except, of course, they were not. They were going through exactly the kind of bullying and oppression those videos were meant to address. The message was an important one, but in a puzzling twist, it became just another fad. An ice bucket challenge. A spoonful of cinnamon.
“Here, now it’s my turn.”
This is nothing new for an actor. The impulse to instruct is natural. In fact, one of the ground rules of improvisation is to resist that impulse. In a common scenario, one person onstage appoints himself or herself the teacher. Maybe it’s an aerobics class. Maybe it’s a painting class. Whatever the setting, it rarely earns laughs. There is just not enough room for unexpected comedy when the actors have trapped themselves into the teacher/student relationship.
We come across it all the time in real life, too. The trade papers are full of advertisements for classes, coaches, seminars. Listen to the former soap opera star explain the ins and outs of the business! It’s called show business for a reason!
Last year, I signed up with one of these industry gurus. His approach was a bit different, focusing exclusively on how to use social media to make contacts and find work. This is something I am not good at doing, so I was hoping to learn as much as I could from someone who had the right skill set.
I was skeptical before giving him my paypal information, but that was where he was the most impressive. The long emails he wrote in response to my questions were remarkable. Did he really take this much time giving personal attention to each of his students? How was that possible?
Still, there was no denying the quality of his writing. He was saying things that forced me to challenge beliefs I had accepted all along. Which is always exciting to me. I enjoy the process of questioning what I think I know. Even if I end up reaching the same conclusions I started with, there is something liberating about dusting off assumptions and looking at an issue from an unexpected angle.
For example, this guy was claiming that an actor does not need an agent to find work. Not that he is responsible for ninety percent of the work search, which we hear all the time, but rather that he does not need an agent at all. That in this day and age of internet interactions, the agent has become obsolete. Fascinating.
He said the same about headshots. No one will be using headshots for any purpose in the near future. Really? That’s quite a statement. I wanted to hear him out. So I joined up.
His classes were online. Taped lectures. Exercises in setting goals. Planning. Strategizing. I kept waiting for him to reveal his closely guarded secrets to success, but the videos were structured in a way that took a few months to view. In theory, so that the most powerful knowledge would not be given until each student had been properly prepared. In reality, there was no powerful knowledge. No secret technique that was sure to work. The structured viewing schedule was designed to keep you paying your monthly dues for as long as possible.
Although he did indeed continue his intensely personal attention, and made a great cheerleading workout coach, he was just another guy with a video camera and a selfie stick, motivated to share what he has learned. Like many others.
His collection of tutorials amounted to a pay per view vlog site, where he tells an entertaining anecdote about an audition. About his first paying job. About the difficult director he had to work with last week. Basically, the same kind of stuff I write about. The same kind of stuff many actors write about, or talk about on youtube. Now Periscope.
That is not to say there aren’t worthwhile people offering pearls of wisdom in surprising places. Heck, even Lucy Van Pelt gave some good advice every once in a while. As long as the audience isn’t being soaked, there is nothing wrong with a supercharged motivational coach, nor a teen recording a personal diary intended for public broadcast, nor even a charmingly sincere new age healer/trans channeler/yoga teacher.
Behind the scenes, however, the psychiatric booth was built and stocked by Charles Schulz. Who was not a sage. He was just a funny man who drew cartoons.