Saturday, January 27, 2007

ON ACTING: Emotional Classes and Exercising

In emotional classes and exercises, often teachers encourage students to experience (re-experience?) their emotional past; to stimulate their present potential for emotion by activating (remembering, in tangible sensory detail) the facts of their historical past. Why ? (The great America proponent of that emotional teaching methodology was Lee Strasberg, among many others.)

Human emotions are caused/created early on in life by the tangible events of life's experiences. These emotional affects, once aroused (in truth, 'aroused' emotions are nothing more than new events forming new neural patterns in our brains), are soon stored as emotional memories, to be most often buried in our sub- or unconscious, to be stimulated later in life by similar, or analogous, life events.

However, sometimes, when the originating events are too telling, and the resultant emotions too profoundly system-rattling, our survival system decides the associated emotional memories--too overwhelming, too negatively impacting on our continuing emotional well-being and functioning to be stored too close to the memory surface--are stored deeply away; in fact, we not only store them away, we lock them away; in fact, we sometimes lock them so far away that we often even forget we have them!

Enter the acting teacher. And the requirements of good acting.

The events of an acting scene (acting life's analogous experience, if you will) leaves a particular acting student unmoved; during the scene he/she exhibits no feeling. Nothing. The actor is a good actor, but s/he is unable to make the scene emotionally exciting. Often that willing actor admits that that particular emotion or set of emotions are difficult to access not only in acting, but also in their everyday life. What to do?

The teacher/director may encourage the student to safely re-visit past events in an emotional class (yes; this is very much like going to a psychiatrist!) to allow the student to unlock the barriers to these emotional memories, to discover their logical emotional/and/behavioral lessons learned by past no longer necessarily apply to the stage or set; they can be unlocked for the length of the scene, and, more importantly, the lock can be placed once again on the door once the scene is over.

Sounds simple, no? No. It is difficult to unlearn the patterns of a lifetime; to establish to separate venues of life's experiences: to create a set of operating modalities for everyday life, and another for life onstage.

But good acting onstage (and sane living off) requires it. So the acting student is encouraged to study and learn acting exercises and techniques, in the safety of a properly run class, to enable them to find flexible control in their emotional lives, to apply on-again, off-again emotional locks to their emotional doors, to learn how to make deep feelings a matter of personal choice and not a captive to unconscious and ancient fear.


Post a Comment

<< Home