Sunday, September 25, 2011

ON ACTING: Banishing Consciousness of Purpose

Some actors are very good about defining and "playing" their character's objective in a scene. They know that character objective properly underlays character energy, character economy and character actions.

But where these same actors often go wrong is having the character consciously aware of their objective during the playing of the scene.

Most people is life--which is what acting is attempting to emulate--do not know their purpose in most 'scenes' of their life. They often move through life unaware of ultimate goals. That's why they often create unproductive actions, why they often find themselves in the middle of comedy or tragedy. (In acting, in drama, of course, characters are ALWAYS by definition in the midst of comedy or tragedy!)

An actor who is consciously aware of his or her objective--the meaning of his/her actions--throughout the scene loses the possibility of wonderful moments of discovery, reversals of fortune, great emotional upheavals and surprises--all elements of an exciting performance. An all-knowing actor also invites the question: if the character was always so aware of his wants and needs during the scene, why did he or she get into the scene's dilemma in the first place. Consciously aware people most generally avoid unproductive situations.

I would argue that in the midst of drama or comedy most people--and interesting characters--lose awareness of their goals and actions. They are too caught up in life-saving denials. They are living 'moment-to-moment', their emotions too caught up in the present, their blood rushing to the heart and groin, and away from the brain.

I advise actors, in their scene analysis and preparation, to ferret out their character's objective in a scene, commit to it, be prepared to fight ferociously throughout the scene to attain it, but, once the scene commences, forget it, push knowledge of it away from their consciousness, bury it deeply in their unconscious muscle memory, so that it while it will energize their character's actions, there will be no residue of consciousness infecting the reality of their performance nor the innocence of their character.

Can an actor be knowing of their objective before the scene and unknowing during? Yes, of course. In life, as I mention above--it is called denial. It is part of a good actor's acting technique and craft...and training. Avoid it at peril.


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