Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ON ACTING: On Avoiding (Emotional) Avoidance Mechanisms

Actors will often go to any lengths to avoid emotion. Here are some of the most common avoidance mechanisms I see in class (you may recognize some from your everyday life as well): (1) fast talking...talking to no one in particular; just a verbal stream of words to avoid real contact with another human being (I call it the Roadrunner syndrome...Beep, Beep and down the road we go!). (2) Soft, quiet talking: this keeps us from trying to forcefully convince someone of our point of view; and this lack of commitment lessens emotional involvement and reaction. (3) Monotone: same syndrome as '2': by not emphasising any words in a sentence it precludes commitment as well. And the monotone speakers refusal to emphasize adjectives is a sentence is particularly egregious; since adjectives and adverbs are the verbalizing of 'feeling'. (4) Walking away from any confrontation; or physically backpedalling: no confrontation, no possibility of emotion. (5) Tense chest; swallowing any emotion before it threatens to escape. (6) Watching oneself act; monitoring any possibility of emotional impulsiveness so it can be squelched in advance. (7) Not understanding a scene; or judging the character as unworthy of involvement: ignorance is bliss; and superiority is worse.(8) Smiling throughout a scene: This is the attitude: "This scene is no problem; I've got it knocked!" So I don't have to be really involved. (9) Not listening: if you don't really listen you can't feel: no stimulus, no synapse/emotion. (10) Not really looking at the other character; same as '9'; no sensation, no feeling...and on and on.

These are my initial 'top ten'; but the list is nowhere near exhausted. To the reader: Why don't you share some of your avoidance mechanisms with me. Look at yourself, on stage and in life. Be honest...(1) know your avoidance mechanisms, and (2) admit your avoidance mechanisms. Your knowledge will give you a gift in return: you will become a better actor. All knowledge, including the knowledge of acting, proceeds from self-knowledge. Denial is death.


Blogger David said...

Intellectualizing rather than feeling. That's my big one, I think.

I also fear the superiority mentioned in number 7. And listening.

Hey, at some point, would you talk about playing the subtext?

Love the blog!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Myles said...

Man I'm guilty for #2-soft speaking #3 monotone #4 tense chest, getting 'in my head'. I've had these problems in the beginning and through your exercises and guidance I've gotten better(I hope) in feeling deeply and expressing myself. That's why I keep training and training. I know one day I will get it. Thanks Cliff.

7:05 PM  

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