Monday, August 9, 2010

The Solitude of the Winner - Part II

A Letter from Monique van der Werff, actress

As a reader of your book and newsletters I would love to thank you for another inspiring column. I have also read 'The Winner stands alone' (as I am a big fan of Paulo Coelho). Thanks for reminding people that fame is empty.

I would like to share my experience on this topic with you, as an example, because it exactly underlines what you were saying.

I have been able to experience it: fame, glory, signing autographs, fans going crazy etc, for a few years. I'm a Dutch actress and a few years ago I was in a children series, which accidentally became the most famous of our country then. It was on TV, primetime, daily, plus we made three movies abroad. But I was not happy. I've always been more of a theater person. I like to take a lot of time rehearsing, searching for the depth of a part and deeply connecting with my fellow-actors.

So, after two years I decided to go back to that. I went to New York to study at Stella Adler's Studio of Acting. When I came back, a lot of people would comment: 'Your colleague from the series is now presenting 'Holland's got talent', that could have been you'. I am so glad it is not me. I know she is really happy doing it, because this was her dream, but is was not MY dream. I really have a hard time getting people to understand that. They think I failed, and 'did not make it'. Even family says worried: 'I haven't seen you on TV for a while, are you okay?' Someone who's had the fame and fortune and now 'lost' it must be sick, sad and miserable...the opposite of which is true: I felt much more like that when I was 'famous' (in the Netherlands, I mean we're talking only 16 million people here...;-)) and couldn't walk the streets without being recognized and screamed at all the time. All this energy coming my way, I just couldn't handle it. And how was I supposed to do my job of observing people, if they were staring at me all the time? But if you say that, as an actor, a lot of people just find that you are being 'ungrateful' or they don't believe you don't crave for fame anymore and think that you are jealous of the ones that 'did make it'.

On TV people see the glitter & glamour, the smiling faces, so they think fame is related to a lot of other things, like happiness. It is not.
I try my best, in interviews etc., to discuss this topic, and letting my own view out on it. In one of the glossies here I literary said: 'Fame is empty'. People do not want to hear this message, they'd rather stay indulged on the illusion.

To complete my story, I have to tell you that (after acting in about ten plays by other people, feeling a lot of satisfaction), I have gained the rights from Paulo Coelho to adapt his beautiful book 'Veronika decides to die' for the Dutch theater. It is my dream come true, to make my own theater plays. I am producing and writing it myself, and (of course) I play the part of Veronika. The premier is October 9th, and I couldn't have been happier, working on this terrific material.
It's the work itself that is so fulfilling. It's working with all these magnificent artists (actors, directors, costume designers, art directors etc.) that makes it so worthwhile.
I am very happy to be able to tell that from my own experience now.

I hope my story was of use to you. Please keep on spreading your message of love and joy. In this world, especially the acting world, we get so many other messages, that this cannot be heard enough!

Monique van der Werff (1982) is a Dutch actress. She played the lead in several feature films (Loverboy, Zoop in India, Honeyz) and TV series such as Onderweg naar Morgen (based on Ryan’s Hope), Alex FM and the award-winning children’s series Zoop. Monique has her own statue in the Amsterdam Madame Tussauds Museum. She acted in ten theater plays for different companies (among others: Het Nationale Toneel, Urban Myth and MC). Monique is the co-owner and artistic director of the White Rabbit Theater Foundation, which is currently working on the Dutch theater adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s novel "Veronika decides to die." Paulo Coelho gave her permission to produce the play, write the adaptation and play the part of Veronika. Premiere: October 9th 2010 in De Toneelschuur in Haarlem (The Netherlands), national tour ‘till the end of January 2011. For more information and playlist:

The Solitude of the Winner

Summer is entering its August lingering and relaxing phase, when we know it will be over soon and we feverishly try to grab the last sun rays. Here in Maine we know it is the last frontier before winter… (Well, almost: I love the October colors too! But there is a old saying that goes; ‘In Maine there are two seasons: July and winter”)

This July I was lucky to be able to read a lot and reflect on my path, purpose, and life by discovering incredible books and articles. I’ll share with you an amazing one:

Paulo Coelho’s new book:  The Winner Stands Alone about the ruthless world of Cannes Film Festival

I have been at Cannes Film Festival several times. I even walked the red carpet for a film with Claire Denis, Chocolat. Everything Paulo Coelho says about the Cannes festival and the film business is true. It is so exactly what I once lived through, he could have written about my own story. In this book, he uncovers the most dangerous, destructive and insidious threat an actor can face in the business: the desire to be famous.

 Glamour, and fame are the two most vicious demons an actor battles with. I would defy any aspiring actor to say that wanting to be famous never crossed his or her mind. Yet, if you work for that purpose, you will quickly find that it is empty. You will fight years to attain a goal that forever escapes you. It will never be enough. It’s an addiction. If you get wide coverage on your new film, you’ll want the cover of Vogue; you got invited to the Academy Awards? You’ll want a nomination. You got nominated? You’ll want an Oscar. You got an Oscar? You’ll want two, plus the Golden Globe. And when you finally reach what you think is the top, you’ll only find solitude and boredom.

Your purpose as an actor should be so much deeper than fame and glory. It should be a message of love and truth you want to give the world. Whether you choose to show what lack of love can lead to in certain roles, or what love can conquer in others, there should always be a higher purpose in your work. The gift of laughter with a comedy can help a depressed person. A film with a cause can move public opinion and lead to a change of policies. A war movie can denounce horror. Theatre has the same potential depth and you will even have more contact with your public. You don’t have a role? Take your talent to a retirement home or a low-income suburb school. The looks of awe on your audience faces will reward you more than many B-movie contracts.

You, as a performer, have tremendous power to express purpose through your work and change the consciousness of the world. You are the Living Work of Art and the one bringing in the energy that is needed now. Don’t forget that in your next audition. You are not there to become a star, but to shine like one, with the light of God’s will.

Art will save the world.

- Emmanuelle Chaulet, CRPL3 acting coach, energy awareness counselor, author A Balancing Act