André Vauthey: How a Swiss Doctor Became an Actor in America

"At the end of day, I guess all I am saying is: go for it, even if it’s scary, maybe especially if it is scary, follow your heart and don’t quit!"

I grew up from polish parents in the beautiful country of Switzerland, where I would go on and finish my medical degree before starting to work as a doctor. But even then, while i was studying and exploring life, I had deep in me a sense of knowing that, no matter what or how, if you do follow your heart you will always end up where you are supposed to be, even if it seems at first that you walking against a wall or worst, backwards. The crucial component is to listen to yourself deeply and for that, of course, to know yourself deeply. And it is in that optic that one day I decided to take a break from my medical path. Don’t take me wrong, being a doctor was very nice. I had a good life. It wasn’t one of those stories where I felt pressure to become a doctor from my parents despite my wishes of becoming an artist. Quite the opposite actually. I was very curious and excited to study how human bodies were made, how they worked, how they sometimes didn’t work and how to heal them. But once i started to work in a hospital, I realized how trapped I felt, how structured and really not breathing this all environment was. I wanted to find something which would be not just good but thrilling, which would make every single cells of my body vibrate. I decided to take a break and reflect on myself again, to make sure I was were I wanted to be today and not only it being a consequence of my past choices.

As I searched in my inner self, I looked into my passions as a kid. They were many of them but one that seemed to be coming back over and over again was acting. I used to force my older brother to perform in front of our parents as a kid. Thinking about it triggered something in me that made me a bit uncomfortable or even a bit scared. And that’s how I knew. If it made me scared, it must be cause it meant something very deeply. So I just knew I had to jump into it. I went to London to study at the pinewoods Studio and just loved it. After coming back to Switzerland, I shot my first short and acting in other ones but felt like I needed a bit of training and decided to come to New York City to study, for what I thought back then would be just an one year of acting training.

As I arrived in NYC, I had quite some expectations. Not the usual ones: big city, big dreams, becoming a star, but more madness. I guessed I imagined NYC as it used to be in the 70s-80s: a big crazy melting pot, with people on the street, artists expressing themselves, madness at its best and worst. What I found instead, was a quite normal city. Sure they are more people and the city is buzzing a bit more but nothing quite out of this world. And the same can be said about my school. It was a quite normal school, no crazy teachers pushing us to the edge or actors burning down the stage. As the year went on, I almost quit to return back home but I just decided to complete the one year program and go back home afterwards.

But, as always, when I decided to give up on it, things started to change.

The city started to crawl under my skin and I started to smell places where expression and craziness were still alive. As for my acting, something in me started to shift. I came to New York City thinking I wasn’t much of an intellectual, having met people way more intellectual than me, but boy was I wrong. I was so much in my head and, even though my teachers kept on saying to get out of your own way when acting, I couldn’t understand what they really meant. But i felt that something was happening. Acting doesn’t satisfy itself with anything but the truth.

So, as the end of my first year came closer, I decided to stay one more year and complete the two years program my school was offering. And god, did things keep on changing.

I started to drop from my head to my body. I found out that our body holds all we need to know as long as we listen to it. I started exploring movement with classes like Gaga, butoh, ecstatic dance and 5 rhythms. Doing so, my acting changed a lot. I started to express with my body; I started to feel despite myself to some extent.

My own personal life change as well. I came to feel myself more, to understand my inner self and how much I used to project around me and how much I took other people’s projections upon me. It is life long process but it is wonderful. And the moments of disconnection are becoming more and more seldom and I actually welcome them now cause I look at them as doors and opportunities to understand where i am at more.

Finally founding the “madness” I was looking in NYC was great. It allowed me to really express and find myself. But I must say I am extremely lucky to come from a place that is literally on majestic mountains. Not having this incredible balance, I think it would have been easy to lose oneself, lose stability. I believe it is extremely important especially for artists who need to be in such a vulnerable state to find their ground, their home, their stone. For me, it’s nature: either in Switzerland, upstate NY or even just a tree on the street.

I have been very lucky acting wise. Since I moved here, I had the amazing opportunity to direct my first play, Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies, and after that one, about 3 more. I got to act in off-broadway in Lead roles, as well as in Germany, be on a major tv show in Switzerland and tour with a play in NYC and North of Italy, which is something I have never experienced before. Touring with a play is a wonderful feeling. It is truly magical to see our set being built in different theaters. And finally, I recently just closed a movement piece, which is something I never thought would happen to me so soon. As I came more into my body, I remembered wishing to perform as a mover and surely enough, short after that there was an audition on backstage and that was it. I feel so blessed and grateful for being able to do what i love as work. It is very important for me as well to do something greater than me and give back as well as move this world to a better place for us all. But to truly do so, one should shine their best self and always listen to themselves and not hold on on ideas they have about themselves. Once that is there, I think it is important to go further and have a certain social responsibility. At the end, that’s what art is about: feeling, express and change the world.

Feel, express, spread and love.

So, at the end of day, I guess all I am saying is: go for it, even if it’s scary, maybe especially if it is scary, follow your heart and don’t quit! There is a saying that says that a hero is the one that stays one minute longer. So just do it, keep on, just for one more minute. It’s worth it. Believe me.

André Vauthey

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