Artists I admire: Jonathan Harden

Anyone who works as an artist understands that the choice to pursue art making as a career has all sorts of benefits and challenges. The life of the artist-actor is no exception, yet I think the challenges often go unnoticed by the general public. We see images of movie stars and successful stage actors living in lavish hones and talking about their craft, but we rarely see the overwhelming number of auditions that actors attend, often without receiving any feedback about why they didn't book the gig. Nor do we hear about the long periods of time where actors, even "successful" ones, often go without working in their chosen field, and thus resort to doing other kinds of jobs that are generally less fulfilling.

Through his new podcast series called The Honest Actors' Podcast at, London-based, Belfast-born artist-actor Jonathan Harden has found a way to share with the world the stories of actors, and those stories run run the gamut.  From finding success to dealing with dead end auditions. From figuring out what to do between gigs to dealing with the feelings that come up when the gigs don't come. Jonathan's podcasts are not the usual candy-coated interviews we experience with actors. He and his generous guests have found ways to shine light on the parts of our profession that even insiders don't want to talk about, and in doing so, they're helping all of us to understand how mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing the work of an actor can be. And I would venture to say that the feelings and experiences of Jonathan's guests have overlap in other arts disciplines as well.

I met Jonathan in January 2007 at Queens University in Belfast. He was pursuing his doctorate at the time, and he sat on a panel of scholars discussing theatre in Northern Ireland for a group of honors undergraduates from NYU. I remember listening to him and thinking, "This guy is super smart, and we need to keep working with him." Jonathan subsequently started teaching on our NYU graduate study away program in Ireland, and we've been colleagues and friends ever since. Jonathan is a very skilled facilitator, and his sessions with our students creating site-specific work on the streets of Belfast are always a highlight.

Not surprisingly, Jonathan is also a gifted performer, and that ultimately led him to do something that I don't think I could ever do. He left the safety and financial stability of the academy, and he now lives and works as an actor in London. That choice has led to amazing opportunities as a performer coupled with a keen awareness of how hard the life of an actor can be.

Hence, Jonathan's podcast. An honest look at the life of the actor through the eyes and experiences of men and women, who like Jonathan, are generous enough and confident enough to share their stories, even when the stories don't match the charmed ones we're used to hearing from actors.

For capturing the bravery that it takes to be an artist and for helping us all to understand that it's not a walk in the park, but certainly a walk worth taking, Jonathan Harden is the artist I admire for this week.

And make sure you check out this week's podcast featuring Isaiah Johnson, currently starring in The Color Purple on Broadway, which just received a rave in today's New York Times.