At least 100 years ago my dad, always an enthusiast, described me as a portfolio worker. I had no idea what he was talking about. A portfolio was something an artist had to carry, to display their collection of artwork, and I couldn't see the connection with my life in theatre. I was just starting out and determined to follow my heart to a career on stage. Ever the wise guardian, my dad could see that the blend of what I'd learnt at Drama School and my particular character traits furnished me with a set of skills that I might want to apply to other forms of work, should the occasion arise. This horrified me. I was an actor and that's all I wanted to be. Life, though, has a funny way of deciding our pathways and my dad could see - where I couldn't - that to sustain a life in art, I may have to turn my hand to various forms of artistry.
The portfolio he described for me all those years ago included all the things that I went on to do with a passion and all linked directly to my love of performance. Nowadays it's the norm to be a portfolio worker - having a range of skills to apply across connected industries. It's interesting that a training in theatre - both for on and off stage work - equips people so well for this.
Recently the BBC presented The Hollow Crown as part of its celebration of Shakespeare 400. Directed by National Theatre Associate Director and former Royal Court Artistic Director Dominic Cooke, it featured a treasure chest of actors who had honed their craft on stage and not on film. Indeed, Dominic had too and The Hollow Crown is his first foray into film.
Talking with him recently, he described how valuable the discipline of theatre directing has been in this transition and how the language of theatre translates to the world of film. Essentially it's all about creating narratives and endeavouring to find the best way of communicating a story. This applies across all areas of work. As time goes on the need to transfer skills and offer a diverse and rich portfolio of skills will be a prerequisite. Education should look to theatre training as an example of how to furnish individuals with tools to last a professional lifetime. Perhaps portfolio work is all about art in an odd sort of way. Thanks Dad.