Saturday, March 24, 2007

ON ACTING: Between Thinking about Acting and Doing

Acting is fundamentally an experiential art, not an analytic one; it is about doing, not thinking about it. We should only analyse our acting (or a given scene) before the fact. We think in acting only in order to better climb further out on the performance diving board. The subsequent dive, the present, unthinking mid-air and underwater experience, is the essential nature of acting, however. It does not--it should not--require thinking.

The rule: Think (about acting) before you act; think (about acting) after you act; when acting, don't think (about acting). Just act.

This approach to acting, of course, runs counter to much academic acting theory. The essence of academia and academics RE acting is the self-conscious pursuit of thought; therefore the ever-present application of consciousness to life's activities is understandably central; it is definitional ; it is a priori. Academics therefore all-too-often make acting analytically conscious EVEN IN THE DOING.

This intellectual approach is an understandable (albeit erroneous) mistake: academia is 'of the intellectuals, by the intellectuals and for the intellectuals'. Intellectuals by definition want to intellectualise; that is the core of their craft. And that approach of consciousness-in-all-things is an essential stage of development when offered to young people in school: 'The unexamined life is the un-lived life', etc. Youth is the time to develop a conscious awareness of all of life's activities, to 'hold things constant', in order to segment their life's activities into component parts, to define them, to understand them, so that later when the analyzed activities are applied and attempted again in everyday life. they can be practiced and performed at higher levels of unconscious application.

Education, as one theorist posited, is moving from conscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, to conscious competence, to the final state: unconscious competence.

In this formulation as it applies to acting education, acting pre-education is step one; steps two and three are education; step four is acting terms: the actual unconscious performance after graduation. One more time: think before you act; think after you act; when acting, don't think. Rehearsal and class is the time RE acting for consciousness. Performance is post-education; just do it.


Blogger Allison Chase Coleman said...

Hi Cliff! I wonder if you have read a book called The Inner Game of Tennis or the The Inner Game of Golf? I found interesting correlations for the 'sport' of acting.

At the moment you take that swing (or when you are acting) any internal judgment and awareness can ruin a natural, confident performance. The Inner Game philosophy speaks of 2 sides of our minds - Self 1 is the critical self that is consciously, earnestly correcting, judging, perfecting, and by doing so 'in-the-moment' hampers the natural abilities of Self 2 who lives intuitively and accomplishes life naturally.

Quote from Book – “The very nature of Self 1 is to doubt Self 2. Self 2’s attributes of spontaneity, natural intelligence, and desire to learn are beyond Self 1’s ability to conceptualize. The self-image that Self 1 creates is a cheap imitation of the living, limitless real you, the you whose capabilities and attributes surpass anything that Self 1 can conceive with his thinking mind. "Trying" is essentially compensation for mistrust in ourselves and generally leads to poor performance.”

“Learning this way requires trust, not in thinking, or formulas, but in your body's ability to learn directly from Experience without judgmental analysis.”

The book seems loaded with valuable ideas for actors. I thought you might like this.

By the way, I loved "The Penitent" and watched it twice! Beautifully done film in so many ways. I could pour over your blog for days and days… Thank you! Take care, Allison

9:12 PM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Thank you so much. I put your comments on the main page, by the way; I thought it was so valuable for others. I hope you don't mind.
Hope you are well.
Take care yourself.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Myles said...

thank you Cliff and Allison, I totally got it and appreciate it.

8:34 PM  

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