Monday, September 24, 2007

ON ACTING: Creativity and Consistency

The challenge for actors is not only to achieve a quality performance once, but also to repeat it night after night. Consistency as well as creativity is a mark of true acting ability.

I have more than a few students who will make wonderful 'choices' in one 'take' (or filmed performance), only to lose them again in the next. When I asked them what happened, the say they didn't want to do the same thing over again; they prefer the constant search for 'newness' and in their work; consistency thwarts there creative search.

When confronted with such actors, I challenge them to move beyond that 'creativity-versus-consistency' posture: I ask them in performance to seek creativity AND consistency: "Why gain a new choice in Take 2, only to lose a prior achieved, wonderful choices from Take 1?" The chore in excellent and improving acting is to retain the wonderful choices from Take 1 while still finding newness and freshness in OTHER choices in the rest of the scene.

Seeking to upset an established apple-cart to find newer and fresher apples while losing older valuable discoveries--while this approach is perhaps a valid and necessary a rehearsal technique--is generally cost-ineffective performance technique: the cost is greater than the revenue, We lose two dollars (and often more) to find a new single dollar bill...(and, in particular for actors, directors soon become bored and frustrated with such 'freshness-above-all-things' acting devotees).

Good actors seeking both freshness and consistency will find the maintenance of OLD choices will retain spontaneity from 'take-to-take' if the actor continues to 'live' the scene in a real, good-acting fashion. The truth is: NO pre-discovered CHOICE in a repeated scene can by definition be done exactly the same in. Life is ever-changing; so will an ever-repeated moment in a good honestly lived scene.

Sometimes he search for constant 'newness' is a hallmark of an actor's fear rather than creative courage. The ever-shifting performance actor is really saying: "What if I haven't got to talent to repeat prior successful choices within narrow, living parameters?"

I call it the "Don Juan" syndrome (of acting): choose to love a new girl or boy every night to avoid the challenge and responsibility of a deep relationship with one person; as in acting: choosing a new way of doing the scene every 'take' to avoid the challenge and responsibility of deepening the scene with older, already established values.

Performance growth is an accretion process; it is the cumulative honing-in of better and better overall performance elements from 'take-to-take'.

Creativity and consistency are not oppositional opponents. As in life, where freedom and constraints, personal choice and social responsibility go hand in hand and are necessary correlatives in the functioning of individuals and society, so in acting creativity and consistency are the necessary and mutual correlatives in achieving acting excellence.


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