In a Word...

.....actor. Patsy McGarry

 

Prithee, a moment. For whomsoever would have it otherwise.

An actor’s life is not an easy one. My late father used the word as an insult. “He’s only an actor,” was one of his more polite denunciations of anyone he did not trust/like/or who belonged to any political party other than Fianna Fáil.

It meant the person concerned was a fraud and probably a member of Fine Gael.

Yet my father also admired the great actors of the age, particularly Éamon de Valera, and claimed to have played a priest in a play when a young man. That would have taken considerable acting ability on his part as he was not quite to the manner born, being no saint. Then most priests are not saints either, thankfully.

But even, while raised in an environment where the word actor was associated with all that’s false, and though educated by Brothers and priests from a tradition that once excommunicated actors and banned clergy from attending theatre, I have always admired actors.

Not least in Ireland where it is such a precarious profession.

Don the mask

On the face of it, this is not a career for the anxious and insecure, yet many actors tend to be under regular assault by such unsolicited harassments.

They, truly, suffer for their art, don the mask and get out there. When there is work. In Ireland it has been estimated that between 80 and 85 per cent of actors are “resting” at any one time. Which is shocking.

Is there any other profession which would put up with an unemployment rate of 80/85 per cent? Only in the arts!

Tomorrow, for the 22nd successive year, this newspaper will honour our actors, and theatre personnel generally, in the Irish Times Theatre Awards, at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Owen Roe, one of the truly great Irish actors of his generation, will receive a special tribute award. I doff my metaphorical hat to him and, through him, to all those courageous men and women whose vocation lies in the most precarious profession.

Actor from Latin actor/agere : to drive forward, perform.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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