Interview with Experts
Colum Morgan – Actor, Performer, Certified Instructor of American and European Theatrical Techniques
What do professional development and acting have in common? Maybe a lot more than you might imagine! Acting can deliver surprising benefits in both your career and personal life.
I take acting classes in my free time and I’ve noticed how theater has enabled me to be a better communicator, not just verbally, but in how I listen to other people and respond better to their needs. I asked Colum Morgan, an accomplished actor and professional acting instructor here in Paris, to share some insights on how acting can benefit you both personally and professionally.
Meet Colum: An American with an Irish passport, living in Paris. Colum took a BFA in Music & Theatre from University of Kansas and an MFA in Acting from University of Texas (at Austin). He has studied Biomechanics with renowned Russian guru Gennadi Bogdanov, as well as extensive studies at LeCoq in Paris and LISPA in London, and workshops with master teachers Norman Taylor, Sergei Ostrenko, and Robin Carr.
Colum is currently being certified to teach the Meisner technique with Larry Silverberg through the True Acting Institute. Combing years of experience as a performer in both American and European theatre, as well as an avid disciple of American and European theatre techniques, he teaches his own series of classes in Paris, France.
Q: What encouraged you to take up acting and what do you like about your work?
A: I grew up through the arts; singing in children’s choirs and playing the piano at the age of five. I felt a pull to the performing arts very early. There was something powerful and mystical about it – I felt a tremendous respect for those on stage. This was due in large part to being raised on top-notch performances in Houston, where my parents had season tickets to the Music Hall. Each year, I would see four or five large productions, filled with honest and entertaining performances. Even as a child, I knew something magical was happening.
Q: When I mention to people that I take acting lessons, they often smile and say, ‘I can’t imagine myself doing that’ or ‘oh no, that’s not for me.’ And if I tell them that acting can be an asset to their career, then I really get odd looks! Colum, how can acting help us grow personally and professionally?
A: Acting is simply living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. But in order to live truthfully, one must be present with their partners – to really talk and listen. Noticing how someone raises their eyebrows when you mention juicy gossip, or how someone slumps into a chair as they arrive at work: all human behavior expresses how we feel. Without words, someone can tell you how their day was.
Many people today ignore human behavior – which isolates us in our own world. But the world actively responds to what we do, and learning how to see/hear that (again) is a large part of acting. By exercising our muscle of awareness, we can see and hear the world around us better.
Here’s a great example: there is a clerk (named Clayton) in a store I frequent who has always simply gone about his day, hardly paying any attention to anyone in the store. One day, I noticed a shift in his behavior, and I mentioned it, “You look really happy today.” That simple observation led the both of us to an outstanding conversation where Clayton described an event that brought both of us great joy. It didn’t require much on my part, and now I enjoy receiving a friendly smile from him because of this experience, and every once in a while – an employee discount.
Making connections like this fills my well of creativity and makes me confident. Without him knowing it, my conversation with Clayton gives me divergent thinking skills – and increases my ability to communicate and understand what’s important to another person.
Q: When someone is new to acting, what positive transformations do you see happening?
A: Allowing yourself to be open and available to your emotions and impulses is powerful and thrilling. After a while, I’ll see students be more physically present, a more active awareness of space and movement, and more human! Acting is the study of being human – of action. I think everyone should be required to take an improvisation class. It’s a great introduction to the craft, a whole lot of fun, and a great way to make lifelong friends.