Monday, June 11, 2012

ON ACTING: The Potential for Emotional Vulnerability

Before a performance, the actor must create their potential for emotional vulnerability. That is, they must stimulate in their rehearsal their capability and willingness to subsequently feel deeply during the scene when stimulated by other's words and events in the scene. This is often called the actor's "emotional preparation" for the scene.

A few thoughts on "emotional preparation:"

Emotions do not have to be learned by an actor. They are all already deep within them, fully created neurologically by the time they are a small child. All they need is to be freed up (activated; stirred up) by the actor for his subsequent use on stage or on screen.

In performance, no actor's emotion is a priori good or bad, moral or immoral. They are all proper for the actor to use - subject only to the demands of the character and the need for audience excitement. The audience during performance will decide the propriety. morality or ethics of a character's emotion--and his/her resultant character actions--but only after the actor-as-character has freely used them and made them subject to that audience judgement. Actors: don't pre-judge. You are the character's advocates; the audience is the judge and jury.

The Potential for Emotional Vulnerability is just that: a potential state. It is part of the "preparation" for a scene. Before the scene, actors make themselves willing to feel the love, sadness, fear, silliness, etc. appropriate to character arousal during the scene; so that these emotions will be capable of fully and excitingly arising in the actor when stimulated by the words and deeds perpetrated upon the actor in the scene. In other words, actor: don't let your sadness, love, fear or silliness in the scene arise until the actual words and events of the scene CAUSE them to arise. Preparation for emotional vulnerability is creating the potential for feeling; performance is the actual blossoming of the prepared feeling.

Emotions are complicated beyond our understanding. Knowledge of our emotions goes only so far in rehearsal anticipation. (Let's face it, the science of emotions is a new science, and not a very exact one at that.) Therefore, we cannot predict or control exactly the full width or depth, texture or tome, of a performance emotion. A great part--and delight--of an actor's performance is the spontaneous discovery of the fullness, richness and profundity of these heretofore imprecise and unknowable complex human emotions.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

ON ACTING: The Child Within You

Children are a bundle of emotions, initially much freer with their feelings than their emotional adult counterparts.

But, in order to prepare children for their eventual life-away-from-the-protected-household future, they are taught to constrain those emotions; to act "appropriately in public." Adults teach them (or they learn "the hard way") which emotions can lead to negative consequences in life, and then to stifle, or at least minimize, the free flow of those negative-consequence producing emotions in their everyday activity. In many ways, one can view the process of turning children into successfully mature adults as one of teaching children to be emotionally careful.

But to become good actors, the opposite task is required: keeping the child alive within. Actors nust learn and accept that there are no inappropriate emotions (on-stage or onscreen)--except those illogical to the character you are playing. To successfully act (and to please an audience) often requires (in the role) the killer in you made manifest; or the whore; or the silly fool; or the depressed intellectual.

Audiences can be defined as a cluster of emotionally needy people who feel at that point of time (when they enter the theater) that too much of their own  childhood emotional freedom has been lost--or at least over-constrained--and so they seek the child within them once again, at least for the duration of a play or film. So to achieve that they seek out the company of actors, who, in their trained, professional child-like emotionally-free performances can guide them for a brief time to their own (the audience's) wide-ranging-but-not-suppressed childhood/childlike natures.

A readily accessible childlike nature is an actor's professional requirement. It is what you are paid to deeply access in your role in drama, tragedy or comedy: you must always keep the childlike emotional nature always alive, nearby, ready for professional use...while hopefully you will also live a mature, adult, careful life offatge and offscreen. (Ah, and therein lies the challenge!)

ON ACTING: The Formula of Human Actions...and Good Acting

The sequence of human actions (in reverse): Actions are fourth. Feelings are third. Sensory experience is second. Goals are primary: all life--and its resultant actions--starts with goals (objectives, aims, intentions, etc,) and move on to stimuli, feelings and finally actions, or responses.

People seek to attain a goal; then they come into contact with the world through which they must move to attain their goals; then they are stimulated by those sensory experiences to feel. And ultimately, these stimulated feelings (a sense of inner activity) result in outer actions.

That is the formula of human existence.

That is the formula of good acting (and, since all good acting is living), it must be thus in good acting. You, as your character, commits to a goal (to be achieved through others in the scene), your character listens and looks to the other characters in the scene, these 'others' stimulate you-as-the-character to feel, your feelings are expressed outward in what you say and do vis-a-vis the other characters. These resultant on-stage/onscreen actions implicitly--directly or indirectly-- reveal the actor-as-character's feelings which gave them birth)...and by seeing and hearing the actor's actions, the audience identifies and is thereby emotionally moved.

It is simple and basic in design. But it is a nakedly honest task; and all too often, to follow this formula excellently well--the task of any good actor--takes some time, patience and, above all, confidence in self.