“Acting” is a term in which artists and performers have used to define their trades for quite some time, but can actually deter the ultimate purpose and intent of the actor’s goal, to not act. Actors are to create life on stage or on set and the more truthful the work the more likely it is the audience will believe it; how can they not if what is happening is in fact real? Actors are real-people, and certainly experiencing the emotional and relationship demands of the material. Perhaps the set is a veneer, the costumes, but the experiences can be real. In this day in age, as acting has evolved from Greek tragedies to modern era, actors should re-define themselves as experiencers if helps them acheive experiences rather than make-pretend. Acting immediately connotes an endeavor athat is replication, mimicry, imposition or performance oriented. It is make-pretend. Although imagination is a very important component for any actor/experiencer, that which should be experienced must occur and take place.
Due to all of the terminology and antidotes that surround “acting,” the process is often very convoluted and confusing, becomes an intellectual exercise that precludes the actor from achieving experiential results. Perhaps “actors” should do everything they can to remove any term, exercise, reasoning that violates reality, their truth, their freedom of expression. Doing away with all of these pseudo-artistic/mechanical means sometimes saves the artist a lot of energy and effort, and actually allows them the opportunity to start creating. The operative word that should come to mind in stimulating truthful work is “how.” How does one create the organic realities of the material to fulfill the piece? “How do I make this real for myself?”
These are logical questions that should immediately simplify the mystique rather than add to it, as the other terms and techniques flying around town on fliers and acting websites that exist largely to substantially profit from starving artists and treat the actor like the movie-star they already think they are or wish they were. Knowing how to actually do something that is rather complex entails plenty of research and exploration, it does not come easy. It will come much easier however if you abandon all of your conceived notions of what “acting” is vs BEING, (To Be or Not To Be).
Functioning from a BEING state is a state in which we are allowed and permitted to include and express our moment to moment impulses, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, opinions. None of those attribute necessarily need to be verbalized but they must be expressed. How does this tie into acting or experiencing? An actor cannot simply walk on set or stage and simply begin to convey or inhabit the inner life of the character. Preparation of course must occur, researching all of the obligations of the material (character, relationship, time and place, etc…)
Much of this research will often times intimidate certain actors who will feel restricted or constricted in how to express or convey these demands of the material, they then jump ship and do a lot less. Much of the time they may even look very comfortable and attractive in certain ways when on set or on stage, they function well. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing much and there is no lasting impression with this sort of work. Eventually it leads to a dull and boring experience for the audience as well. The actor has become more concerned with surviving or being comfortable rather than telling a story that could potentially change someone’s life. Culture is very much dictated by art.
People are moved by the pictures they see, the messages the story tells, the songs on the radio and the lyrics in them. These forms of art dictate to society who and what we are through the messages we take in. Government even gets involved in which celebrities throw fundraisers for certain candidates, big business push certain agendas and polices, the war on drugs kills rock n’ roll. These are results, transformations, or evolution in which art changes the times. Art breeds creation and leads to political reform, equal rights, legislature, etc…
So if the artist wants to attain a level of reality worth working for, they must abandon all of the jargon that inhibits them from truly living the life of the character. Teachers still continue to toss around vague terminology of “be in the moment, be present, express, etc…” All of this is wonderful advice if it includes a specific how, otherwise its just nice-sounding philosophy to an otherwise naive and ambitious actor who is also unaware of how to then create beyond a state once they achieve BEING.
There are many exercises that will promote BEING, or the ability to express on a moment-to-moment basis, including all of the multidimensional life that the actor is experiencing yet is most always trapped beneath the acting, and the acting is just that because the actor thinks or feels that the life they are really experiencing is inappropriate for what must be expressed through the lines in order to fulfill the piece. The insecurities and commentary the actor experiences underneath the acting and their hiding the expression out of fear of it being seen will only short-circuit the artist’s ability to actually be interesting, unpredictable, expressive.
You cannot short-circuit one impulse and give way to another authentically. If you short-circuit your impulse you shut down your instrument and means of expression completely. The concern that surrendering to these insecurities or “inappropriate emotions for what the scene requires” may be threatening, the truth is that this expression also allows the actor to respond to the moment as it unfolds, and if a real need and objective exists, the actor will appropriately and logistically respond in attempt to achieve their want or desire. The actor (or experiencer), must be willing to let go of any preconceived notion of what they think the scene should look like or sound like, and simply stimulate the realities of the character, trusting that all necessary behavior will come out of the choices they create. Actors begin to fight for something real, and not just the idea of “I’m going to fight for something” but actually having something tangible and specific to fight for. This is where the work requires digging a little deeper. The determination to be irreverent, to trust your process, and respond truthfully will create an infinite realm of possibility for the actor to follow where their feelings take them and will actually learn that they end up meeting the demands of the material because they begin living rather than acting.
Excerpt from Charlie Rose © CharlieRose.com
Used with permission. Special Thanks to Charlie Rose Inc.
For many many years actors have suffered from being unable to express themselves. They will be convinced they felt something or experienced something on stage. Most likely, I believe, they did. Unless the actor is very mentally unwell and delusional, they did experience but failed and unaware they failed in its expression to everyone taking in the experience.
“Stanislavski was well aware of this actor’s problem of expression — that is, what the actor conveys to an audience.”
“When I came became the artistic director of the Actors Studio in 1948, I came to realize more and more that an actor could experience and yet not be able to express an emotion. I had always known about this problem and had dealt with it in the practical terms of production. But now, I was fully aware of this as a central problem in acting.”
“The difficulty in expressing oneself is not true only for actors, but for all human beings.”
“He (the actor) also develops habits of expression. He is conditioned to express his feelings and emotions not by nature, character, and strength of his own emotional responses, but by what society or his environment will permit. He is usually aware of his physical habits, but has little knowledge of his sensory and emotional reactions.” -Lee Strasberg
Eric Morris who has drastically evolved the craft developed many ways for the actor to discover freedom of expression. And from this place, “BEING,” the actor is free to create whichever reality necessary to meet the demands of the material. Out of his dissatisfaction with vague and unspecific process, Morris began to search for a reliable “how to” approach to create that which is necessary.
“I went to work to find exercises and approaches that were specifically designed to eliminate and strip away the inhibitions and fears that actors have. There were hundreds of exercises I explored to help actors experience and express their emotions.”
“The entire concept of BEING developed as a philosophy related to living and acting and as a very necessary preparation for acting. The first step in a scene is to get in touch with everything you are feeling, including all the obstacles and distractions standing in the way of real life.” – Eric Morris
Irreverence is not a simple philosophy. It requires staying true to your reality, your experience, and having the integrity an artist needs. Although this exploration will mean taking liberties with the material, it is necessary to discover the reality to begin with. Adhering to an idea bounds the actor to just that, deteriorating the potential for discovery and experiencing. We as people are filled with experiences that contribute and shape who we are today. These are our gifts. It is a tragedy for any artist to hide when it is the revealing of ourselves that reveal something about the character, in turn reveals the story, and ultimately reveals something about ourselves as an audience, a marriage, a government, society or world at large. To discard these colors and notes is to rob the world from evolving, in every way, shape, or form that in which the work provides the opportunity to create.
“He must irreverently follow his impulses wherever they lead. By approaching the obligations of the material in this manner, he is actually functioning as he would if the circumstances were really happening. In that the case, the instrument takes care of itself. That is to say, the normal instinctive human response occurs, thereby fulfilling the material organically with dimension and unpredictability.” – Eric Morris