The original “apology” was written for Socrates. After he was found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens with this crazy little thing called curiosity, his student Plato decided to speak up. Socrates wanted people to push the boundaries of human knowledge, to question, and by extension, I believe, to feel. If his was a a sin punishable by death, then everybody that works for a tabloid should be shot out of a canon into a sea of molten lava, to be rained on by anvils. But what’s lost in Plato’s apology for Socrates, called “The Apologia Socratis,” is that it wasn’t an apology at all. The Greek word, in fact, is closer in meaning to “defense” than what we think of today as the modern mea culpa, where we prostrate at the feet of those we’ve offended and beg forgiveness. Either way, I’m not sure either approach is ideal, but we work with what we’ve got.
I’m an actor. I don’t like talking about it too much with people I don’t know since I fear the inevitable barrage of questions related to my incidental dealings with people far more famous than I, but mostly I don’t like talking about it because I either feel I have to apologize for what I do, or that I have to defend it. Actors have long been considered a half-step above prostitutes, so to a degree it’s understandable. And hey, I know we’re not always the brightest bunch. We’re not. We’re often a bit stupid, getting by on our looks or charms or sex appeal until it fades into wrinkles, desperation and a fifth story walkup at age 80, hoping that new headshot will turn things around.
Yesterday I was having tea with a friend and she told me a story I know all too well. She was introduced to somebody as an actor, the person then looked at her funny, and she felt the need to qualify it by saying, “No, I’m a working actor,” which she is. But why should we in the arts have to apologize or defend? You’d never hear, “No, I’m a working dentist,” or “I’m a working systems analyst.” We in the arts do it to ourselves, of course. Our fears and insecurities – I’m working today, but will I be working tomorrow? does anybody like me? is this thing on? – take center stage and we nervously stake a claim to our calling, hoping nobody will notice that we’ve chosen to jump from the plane before checking to see if we’re actually wearing a parachute.
But what I find puzzling is that this is a symbiotic relationship. The world needs artists. The world desperately wants artists. Everywhere. All the time. Actors, dancers, painters, musicians, designers, architects, you name it. Without artists we’d all be living in gray boxes, wearing gray clothes, staring at gray walls, reading nothing, hearing nothing, seeing nothing. Perhaps we’d all have a greater appreciation for nature, the greatest artist of them all, but other than that, there would be very little by way of inspiration.
So to the people who look down their noses and feel a superiority or pity at meeting an artist, consider thanking us. Thank us for giving you everything from the song that gets you to strut down the boulevard to the shirt that makes you feel sexy on a Friday night to the novel that helped you understand your mother. That’s what we do, and it may serve a greater function than figuring out how to squeeze another dime from the poor. And to the actor who feels like she has to show her demo reel at every introduction, hold your head high. You’re in a profession that makes people feel something. If anybody should be defending themselves and apologizing, it’s the people that killed Socrates.
For the Mineralava Musings, this is Edoardo Ballerini.
|Edoardo Ballerini is an actor and a writer. He has appeared in over 40 films and television series, and is best known for his on-screen work in The Sopranos, Romeo Must Die and the indie hit Dinner Rush.
He recently completed filming No God No Master opposite Academy Award Nominee David Strathairn, and begins filming the Martin Scorsese/HBO series Boardwalk Empire this fall.
He is told he lives in New York.
(For a complete bio please visit Wikipedia.)