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Matthew Dunivan

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Visual Artist


- Matthew Dunivan

“The actor is usually word-shy and inarticulate. Often he does not know what it is he does or how he does it, that makes him an actor. Even when he knows, it is difficult for him to say it or write it. He can only express it in action”

Richard Boleslavsky
Acting: The First Six Lessons

           few years ago, I left an acting class very distraught and distressed. As I walked to the train, I was haunted by the phrase I’d heard. The teacher of the class turned to us and proceeded to go on a diatribe with the final statement, “You absolutely have to know your reason for why you deserve to call yourself an actor. If not, then walk away.”  The reason? My reason? I sat in class and felt as if walking in the cafeteria in junior high, when everyone turns to you, staring, and wondering if you know at which table you belong. I didn’t know. 


I thought I’d had a great fortune and privilege in knowing what I’ve wanted to do from a very early age. I believe most people go their entire lives without ever finding what they want to do. I considered myself very lucky. I knew I had discovered something different than my other extracurricular activities like soccer or hockey. This was different. Also, every soccer and hockey team I was on sucked. We lost nearly every game. But this. Acting. This was it. I couldn’t explain how it was different. I just knew. 


From the time I was thirteen, pacing my room memorizing the prologue of Romeo & Juliet, I was fascinated about this thing called acting. But I never felt as though I had to defend the title of actor as if it were a dissertation. Trying to explain that sense of knowing now had me flummoxed. How do we explain the things we love? And how did I know for sure I loved this? Maybe I didn’t know what love actually was and was lying to myself. Maybe the reason was pure vanity and selfishness. 


But then I thought about the moments before I realized what I had been doing as a kid was acting.  When I did a solo performance of my book report for my sixth grade class, performing self-written monologues from all the characters’ perspectives, that was acting. Or my plays I would put on at the top of the stairs and cast my unwilling brothers to take my direction, that was devising. Or the home movie shows I would put together. And then when my parents took me to see a play for the first time and I sat there for two hours, transfixed. Or even those holy moments when, during a performance of Margaret Edson’s Wit, my mom passed tissues to a complete stranger sitting next to us. 


It was after a long cogitation I began to realize what I might say to that teacher who almost scared me out of something I’ve given my life to. If he were here, I would say, “No one ever asked Van Gogh or Monet why they think they deserve to hold the title of painter. Their reason was on the canvas.” In the same way, my reason is in my work. My passion and love for what I cannot be explained. It can only be, as Bolevlevsky writes, expressed in action. 


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