Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ON ACTING: "Specificity"

One could reasonably argue that the two most important words in an actor’s vocabulary are: “active”, and “specific”. Good acting is: purposeful human beings moving actively toward their goals through a specific external reality.

Human neural circuits are not general; human evolution designed them with great specificity. Specific chemical and specific electrical flows move through the human body (causing specific synapses/specific emotions) in specific response to specific stimuli, subsequently causing all specific human actions. Specificity is one of the most central aspects of all human reality (whether we are cognitively aware of that specificity is another matter).

One day I was driving a car from my home to the studio and I was paused at a red light. I thought of my long dead father. As often happens in my daily life, the acting teacher came alive in me (I am always looking for acting/life insights; life has become my textbook cum lab). Why, I thought, at that moment, did I think of my father? Why not an hour ago, or a day ago? Why at all; and most specifically, why now?

I started to shrug the event off, thinking it was just some general feeling (‘nothing specific’ I thought to myself); when suddenly I remembered: the moment before I had stolen a quick glance to my left, at the car and its driver stopped next to me. I looked there again; and there it was…the specific answer as to why I felt like thinking about my father…the driver in the other car looked exactly like my father, including skin pigment, hair style and hair color. His ethnicity was my father’s…and mine. Obviously the driver’s specific facial image had triggered the specific (albeit unconscious) emotions and thoughts of my father; my father feelings were sensorially engendered specifically by the driver...no matter how unaware I may have been of the actual process.

Real emotion, therefore, the most important product of a successful performance, will not occur in a real and spontaneous real-life manner unless the actor is truly in contact with specific stimuli of specific sounds and specific sights (not to mention specific tastes, touches and smells) of her performance reality as s/he moves toward her objective.


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