Monday, July 05, 2010

ON ACTING: The 'No-no' of Auto-stimulation

Some acting instructors teach actors how to apply--during a scene--certain emotional tricks or exercises or techniques to self-induce desired emotions.

Warning on the label: When using such acting methodology, negative consequences may arise.

Problem number one: emotions in real life--hence in good acting--do not generally arise by self-stimulation. Certainly no one in life wants to feel pain, or sadness, or fear...only, it seem, self-stimulating actors! Emotions in reality arise, or are generally induced, by the the external stimulation of outer stimuli. Even when deep emotions are induced by inner thought, that inner thought is secondary, and dependently reactive: the thinking brain has been initially activated by external stimuli. For example: we see a man who reminds us of out father; we feel a strange longing. That feeling of longing produces the desire to remember our father, which caused our final (and actor desired) deeper feelings.

Potential problem number two: the concentration of self during emotional self-stimulation takes the actor's concentration out of the scene; and, ironically and unfortunately, the less the actor’s focus in on the eternal reality of his scene, the less he renders himself capable of being stimulated by the scene itself, where real emotions generally and most properly happen!

Problem number three: when that happens, when the actor is so busy self-stimulating, and ceases listening and looking to external reality of the scene itself, the scene loses its conflictual tension because the auto-stimulating actor is somewhere else than in the tension of the scene: in point of fact, he is within himself.

Actor’s and teachers who plan to improperly use such preparation emotional techniques and exercises during a scene should recognize the ‘pre’ in the word preparation. This would seem to indicate that emotional preparation techniques should occur before the scene, not during.

There is an old joke: A married couple had been married twenty five long years. They are in bed having their obligatory once a month sexual rendezvous. It is a warm evening. They’re tired; but they are dutifully committed to the success of the joint venture. They are working very hard. Ten minutes pass; twenty. Both are now covered with perspiration. Nothing emotional is happening. Thirty; thirty-five. Finally, after a three-quarters of an hour passes, he stops, looks at her and says: “Can’t you think of anyone else either?”

As a last resort, applying tricks, techniques or exercises mid-scene may be acceptable as a salvage effort on behalf of an emotionless scene, or an emotionless marriage, but wouldn’t it be nice if the two people in the scene were fully prepared to get off on the sights and sounds of each other instead of their separate selves.


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