Sunday, June 27, 2010

ON ACTING: The Tentative Actor

Actors often get tentative in an audition. They are afraid they are going "to make a mistake" in their acting choices (meaning a misinterpretation of the script or character). So they barely let their acting performance out of the bag; they paint their performance carefully in the washed out pastels of tentativeness rather than the bold color choices of a vivid oil painting.

I (and many others) often advise actors, who are perhaps tempted with carefulness raher than with boldness, to make a character/acting choice (right or wrong) and then "go for it"...casting directors often call it "taking a risk"; i.e., holding nothing back.

Think of it this way. Let's say I want to buy a fast car (the equivalent of an exciting actor) and I go to the testing track to test them out. Which car are you more likely to buy: a car going 160 miles per hour the wrong way around the track; or a car that is going 120 miles per hour the right way around the track? The first one right? You buy the faster car and you turn in into the right direction. The same with actors.

The casting director sees an exciting actor make a wrong choice of character interpretations, the casting director can simply make a character adjustment and ask the actor to do it again. On the other hand--and unfortunately--with an unexciting actor, the casting director says "thank you...goodbye", and doesn't care which way their performance car was headed, right or wrong...except out the door.

Friday, June 25, 2010

On ACTING: Feel Free To Be

Fear inhibits great acting. That’s the value of experience (training and rehearsal). Fear diminishes. The trained and rehearsing actor comes to the realization “I can survive the agony and ecstasy of this emotional conflict. In fact, I enjoy the agony and ecstasy of this emotional conflict.”

An actor should not allow emotional fear to limit their performance. Let them remember: The theatre is a place of permission. It is always emotionally safe. It is a safe place to feel and reveal …and be healed? Is catharsis nothing more than therapy? Perhaps. Like in the psychiatrist's office, there is no risk in theatre. All the risk in emotional life is outside, in everyday life.

Acting is the consummate ‘one night stand’; what happens now is all forgotten tomorrow. The minute the curtain rings down, or the director yells cut, all consequences are over.

The audience grants you that permission. In the theater, they do not judge severely actors who plays whores, or killers or fools. They save that for before and after. All they say in the theater is: "Give me more."

Feel free in acting. In everyday life, be careful.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ON ACTING: Avoiding the Siren's Call of Success

There is another temptation for an actor to "getting in their head", to falling prey to excessive consciousness of performance, and that is prior success: trying to remember all the wonderful acting elements found and practiced in rehearsal, or, even more, discovered in a previously very successful performance or ‘take’. "I’ve got to remember to do this…and remember to do that…” in the next take. "I was so wonderful last time!" So that actor’s brain stays open during a subsequent performance to try to replicate the successful past…which is impossible in the first place. The past is past. It is by definition gone. She who looks over her shoulder at the past, is most likely to trip over the present.

Each performance of a scene is new, impossible to replicate precisely. You cannot be brilliantly the same; you can only be brilliant again. The past is dead. Bury it. Create new life.

Remember how your brilliant performance happened in the first place? You probably weren’t thinking, right? You were just getting involved in the reality of the scene, letting the performance happen. So do the same again. Trust that if you were brilliant once, you can be brilliant again. Even within the narrowest of scripted and directed parameters. Even the performance of all the required notes of a Mozart concerto is never exactly the same. Ask the great pianists. Life--and art--is no susceptible to robotic replication. That's is what is so wonderful--and unavoidable--about being human...and therefore an actor.

ON ACTING: Actor Awareness

When the actor "thinks" onstage, that is, is consciously aware of their actor-self in performance, watching everything "his character" does and says onstage, he is in effect inserting an unnatural extra beat or circuit of actor-thinking before or after or during each moment in the scene. That extra mental act of awareness that the actor inserts before or after saying a line of dialogue, or other action in the scene throws off the rhythm of a scene, disturbs the natural and recognizable life flow of the scene.

And the audience becomes aware of the unreality of the actor's real emotional performance life; and distances itself from the actor's work, and the scene.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

ON ACTING: Eliminating Fear To Achieve Grace

ACTORS, NOTE: The human system (actors in performance), unimpeded by a lack of courage and unburdened by a plethora of insecurity and self-doubt, is fundamentally graceful: after a precise estimate of external resistance all obstacles in its path, the human body and mind, elegantly shepherding its resources, creates little waste in its goal-seeking efforts.

Clumsiness is fear; and it is only clumsiness--arising from a lack of confidence, second guessing oneself mid-graceful-action--that impedes the body's inherent grace. Left to its own devises, unencumbered by fear, and its twin stumbling blocks hesitation, doubt and unlearned lines, the graceful human system operates like a well-oiled internal combustion engine rarely using more or less gas (emotional energy) than it deems necessary to achieve its goals; and realizes, in that process, its inherent graceful potential. Actors: eliminate fear--get out of your own way--and be beautiful.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

ON ACTING: Graceful Action

ACTORS NOTE: The human system (that includes actors in performance), unimpeded by a lack of courage, unburdened by a plethora of insecurity and self-doubt (in actors often caused by not knowing one's lines!) is fundamentally graceful. When left to its own devises, the human system operates like a well designed internal combustion engine; rarely using more or less gas (emotional energy) than it deems necessary to keep the system running economically at the desired speed toward its goal. The human system is inherently emblematic of grace. Unimpeded, the body and mind creates little wasted effort, shepherding its resources, overcoming, after a precise estimate of external obstacles’ resistance, all such challenges in its path. Only self-imposed clumsiness--arising from a lack of confidence, which manifests itself in second-guessing oneself mid-graceful action--thwarts the body's inherent grace.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


A "build" in a scene arises energetically/emotionally, sequentially and increasingly (from a deeper and deeper place, as it were) within each and all characters in a scene as each character has to continually deal with the ongoing increasing resistance (and non-defeat) of their respective opponents; until at the end of a scene, the built-up intensity of each character is released in climax. Sounds like group sex, doesn't it? Should be. Since drama, and acting, at least as we in the West know it, reportedly came from the orgiastic Dionysian rites (passionate choral dancing) of pre-Athenian Greeks.

Human life is based on physics; and since good acting is life, good acting must be based on the logic and precepts of physics.