Saturday, January 16, 2010

ON ACTING: "First Choices" or Not

There are some acting theorists who suggest an actor, when first analyzing a scene preparatory to performance, obey initial impulses: respect first "choices" as to how to play a scene. The implicit assumption is that our initial impulses are truer (and thus more pertinent to acting reality and excitement) than our more considered later opinions.

Admittedly, second guessing is a pernicious disease. We all suffer from it. The mind is a clever devil. It serves to protect us from our primitive emotional selves even when we don’t want it to. Fear seems to operate from a neural circuit wired very close to our primitive impulse circuit; and when we mistake the two, what we call our brave first choice is really its cowardly twin: learned caution.

In line with this, I would argue that except for the bravest and most emotionally open of actors, consider your "first choice" as your careful choice; accepting the premise that when confronting as scene for the first time, even the most flexible and adventuresome of actors, not to mention the most courageous imbibers of everyday life, are captives of some prejudgments or prejudices.


That is why I suggest to actors analyzing their scenes to seriously examine second, third and fourth choices. Those choices may arguably take one away from the free open impulses of "first choices", but in most actors, more likely that not that fuller examination of will expand the emotional possibilities in a scene.

2 Comments:

Blogger Luis M. said...

I'm in most agreement with what you mentioned about our "first choice". I believe that only unexperienced actors fall in the "trap" of not exploring second or third options of emotion and intention. An actor never stops exploring.

Our "first choice" is often what we get from our first read of the text and should not be a reliable element. Many texts take more than one read to comprehend fully and thus giving way to an endless possibility of interpretations.

11:27 AM  
Blogger mjohnson_k said...

I would say that settling on a choice too soon is risky. I agree, Luiz, that actors should never stop exploring. Exploration allows actors more opportunities to have those powerful, true, "in the moment" experiences. It might feel "safe" to settle for a choice early on, but I don't know if it ever feels or appears fresh.

2:46 PM  

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