Friday, February 23, 2007

ON ACTING: Good Habits (In Life) versus Bad Habits (In Acting)

Our human system is built for survival. It seeks behavioral (as in carefullness). The Ancients suggested a motto for a wise, tempered life: "Moderation in all things."

However, good acting habits demand a life of emotional extremes. No one (no character) gets into drama, tragedy or comedy, by playing it safe, by being rationally sane. Egregious excesses--in needs , desires and goals--are the qualities that lead to theatrical danger and excitement.

So, in order to train himself to become an exciting actor, the actor must and will often find the very character habits and traits that serve her well in life, such as 'looking before leaping', 'counting to ten before responding', backing away at moments on conflictual tension...most all reasonableness in the face of emotional chaos...are counterproductive to their exciting acting efforts. (Therefore the actor should not feel guilty if and when he finds the generation of extreme acting emotion a difficult task. He is doing nothing 'wrong'. He is just continuing to obey the logical tempering dictates of long term survival developed in everyday life.)

However--and so--to combat those perfectly logical everyday constraints, to learn to become feeling-excessive on stage and onscreen, to allow emotional dangerous behavior to occur in her in performance, the actor should train herself to develop a dual set of operating modalities: one for life (carefulness...because everyday life's dramas do present consequences that are truly severe and long lasting), and one for stage and set, where it is perfectly safe to embrace impulsive behavior and danger, because the consequences of any emotional act do not last longer than "Cut" or the drop of the curtain.

However, in embracing this dual operating modality, the actor should understand she is not embracing a unique-to-profession schizophrenia, an attitude toward human behavior that is perverse. ALL people EVERYWHERE live dual lives. In everyday life all are required to embrace Jekyll-Hyde existence, especially when it comes to balancing emotion and reason. Actor and "civilians" (non actors) are different only in that they do it in reverse order: Non-actors embrace reason and constraint at work, and emotional openness (if they want a caring environment) at home. On the other hand, actors are required to be wildly and emotionally open at work, and then, when they go home, if they seek a balanced life, be emotionally moderate and tempered as they enter the front door.


Blogger David said...

When I audition, it seems that the more "out there" I am, the more successful I am, even if it feels forced to me. I don't know if that's because casting people figure they can "pull me back" or because they don't know when something's too much. (Of course, it could be just that I think it's too much, because of my own real life tactics.)

2:26 PM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Cliff Osmond said...
David: I think you hit the nail on the head in your last parenthetical sentence. Keep pushing yourself 'way-out-there', as you phrase it, until you become finally consistently comfortable with the seemingly forced auditioning self. Remember: you are auditioning for them...not for yourself!

12:03 AM  

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