When I think of acting, I tend to think of Hollywood and famous actors. I think of people who can come across in a way that makes society adore them. It makes me wonder if there is something about the art of acting that we can learn from when we want to put our best foot forward in social settings.
This was my frame of reference coming into this interview. And yes, I did learn a few great tips from the acting toolkit. But I was surprised to learn that my perception of actors has little to do with the actual art of acting or with the typical personality types who pursue acting careers. I also underestimated just how much acting helps to develop soft skills like empathy and collaboration.
Today we talk to Cathlyn Melvin who has a decade of experience as a professional actor, educator and entrepreneur. During this time she was battling the stigma of being a business owner in a predominantly nonprofit field, even though she chose to be homeless to keep supporting her educational mission. Cathlyn is currently a copywriter and advocate for mission-driven businesses to ensure that these business owners never have to choose between making a difference and paying their rent.
We hope you enjoy this insightful conversation with Cathlyn Melvin.
00:01:58 – wanted to be an actor from a young age.
00:04:04 – the art of acting vs the appeal of being famous.
00:06:58 – acting develops empathy and other soft skills.
00:10:58 – dealing with big personalities.
00:13:50 – most actors are introverts.
00:17:08 – most important skills for good acting.
00:23:44 – how to use the actor’s toolkit at networking events.
00:27:46 – mission behind teaching acting to children.
00:34:05 – Cathlyn gave up her apartment to keep serving students.
00:39:41 – called greedy despite being homeless to keep pricing affordable.
00:50:43 – copywriting advice for written communication.
00:56:21 – writing good hooks while avoiding click-bait.
00:58:50 – swipe file to save good copy.
01:00:21 – learning how to become a better writer.
01:04:45 – connect with Cathlyn.
Links to References
Oscar Wilde: “give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth
“They say they love the curtain call… but for me that response misses the point of being an actor. The reason that actors do a curtain call after a play is to thank the audience.”
“My favorite part [of acting] comes before we even get on our feet in rehearsal. It’s called table work…and we’ll read through the play and do textual analysis. We’ll talk about subtext. We’ll talk about what’s really going on. We’ll talk about what the characters are really dealing with that’s not in the text.”
“Are the people who are highly empathetic attracted to being actors or is it because acting teaches empathy so well?”
“Better than any other activity, theatre really does teach us empathy.”
“The skills that you learn through participating in theatre, the teamwork, collaboration, the sense of responsibility and the empathy, they are all incredibly transferable.”
“In reality, the majority of actors are actually introverts.”
“The best portrayal of a character brings the most of yourself truthfully into that character.”
“Meisner said that acting is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.”
“It’s not you on stage… my favorite thing is to be invisible and that’s what you are on stage. The actor does not exist.”
“If we’re talking about networking I would love to give the advice to put the mask away. It’s easier to connect with someone when we’re being authentic.”
“From your actor’s toolkit, I would say bring out your breath…exercises like that, they start your parasympathetic nervous system…just the simple act of taking several slow deep breaths can say to our brain: we’re safe, we’re not in danger. Whatever we are about to do: yes, it might be scary but we can do it.”
“It was our mission to provide accessible theatre programming…we weren’t training little actors, what we were training were good humans. We were training people who were going to be compassionate. Training people who were going to respect each other.”
“We would ask [the kids] what is active listening? One student said it’s not just listening with your ears. It’s listening also with your eyes, and your mind, and your heart and your whole body.”
“I feel very strongly that we made a difference in thousands and thousands of lives during that time.”
“It was off and on for about three years that I was unofficially homeless (and purposefully homeless) [to keep serving students]…it was worth it. It allowed me to touch so many more lives and hearts and help build healthy humans.”
“In her response she called us greedy and I was gutted…sitting on a friend’s couch that you’re borrowing for a week at a time and you have your work up on a laptop that is six years old and being told that you are a bad person.”
“There are many non-profits who do amazing things and there are many non-profits who do bad things. And there are many for-profit business that do amazing things and many for-profit businesses that do bad things. In the end I believe it’s the service and the impact that should matter. I don’t think it should matter how you file your taxes.”
“You don’t get to quit because you’ve had this experience and now you have to help other people who’ve had this experience. You have to do better so other people can have it better next time.”
“If we’re just going to look at what we can learn as everyday email writers from copywriting, one thing that comes immediately to mind is that everything should have a call to action.”
“Copy really is any set of words that are going to drive action in your reader.”
“It wastes time if you don’t tell me what you want me to do….just tell me. Just tell me what you want me to do.”
“Every piece of writing that you put on the internet should be formatted in a way that if people are skimming it, they’re still getting the main point.”
“We’re much more likely to follow instructions that are broken up and that we can bounce from part 1 to part 2…”
“We’ve been trained to absorb a line at a time.”
“Click-bait is not necessarily a clicky title, it’s when you feel tricked, when you feel a promise was not lived up to.”
“You can learn from click-baity titles.”
“My number one piece of advice for people who want to become better writers is to read.”
“There’s a master and an apprentice. There is always one of each… you can be a master but you are also an apprentice.”