Sunday, May 04, 2008

ON ACTING: Energy/Emotion Expenditure

The student asked me: "How much energy should I put out in performance?"

I responded: "As much emotional energy as you (as the character) really feels and is necessary to accomplish your (the character's) task of obtaining your objective through the other person.

"Granted, in order to be exciting, all actors must live at a level of intense inner emotional energy. In fact, the best actors are by nature--and nurture (training and role preparation)--intensely involved in the moment of performance. Their inner actor-as-character strings are stretched taut, prepared to be stricken by the events of the scene intensely, to make the deepest emotional music.

"But how loud the resultant sound, how much energy/sound the instrument puts out at any given moment (in acting or in music), is dependent upon how hard the instrument is hit--and how sensitive its essential vibratory nature.

"Human energy (and, for that matter, emotion) is not a throw-away item. Humans are not by nature energy profligate or spendthrift. They are economical; they spend a scarce resource--energy--carefully, and only in the amount that survival requires. Just like people who spend money too profligately are soon 'broke'/poor/without-resources, so too humans who have spent their emotional/energy unwisely will soon be broke.

"Human nature has learned by necessity to expend just sufficient energy to accomplish a task. Thus, we humans do not--unless we are wasteful, profligate (or bad actors)--push a feather as if it were an elephant; or to shout in a scene when the listener seems very attentive and agreeable. Only bad actors expend unnecessary energy (emotion). A good actor, in order to obey the laws of nature (which is required always--in order to be real), feels/senses/measures unconsciously, moment-by-moment, through his/her sensory apparatus how much resistance the other character in a scene is expending toward him, and adjusts his return efforts accordingly. A good actor releases just enough energy as it necessary to accomplish the task. A good actor thereby creates intense operational tactics with proportionality and elegance and economy.

"SO: How much energy should an actor put out in performance? ANSWER: Let your human emotional/energy system decide, as it listens and looks at the other character in the scene, and it sub-consciously (and emotionally/energistically) responds.

A taut wire (an exciting, open instrument) is the proper metaphor for a good actor; and, you, the good actor, plays the scene, let your response (the musical force you play) be dictated by the received stimuli of the scene; as you overcome the resistance of your opposition and your instrument apportions your energy expenditure accordingly."

2 Comments:

Blogger NicCage The Actor said...

bad soap opera actors definitely expend unnecessary energy

8:39 PM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

To niccage the actor, RE Soap opera actors:

They (the good Soap) actors do not expend unnecessary (in you terms, bad acting) energy. Their acting just seems excessively energetic because the nature of (good) soap acting demands extra intensity to compensate for the character's simplified, non-complex emotions.
It's like drawing with an eight-color only box of crayons: the resultant picture is very bold (seemingly unreal) and stark.

Also: Sometimes one can be put off by the obviousness required in a Soap performance: in Soap there seems to be no sub-text. Feelings are in your face, obvious; all is text. 'If the character feels it, they say it.'

This lack of subtlety may seem over-energetic acting also.

3:07 PM  

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