Discovering the logic behind the magic
NEW talents who want to learn how to act really well and become outstanding performers with long careers often ask us for the “secret formula” for thespic success.
At a continuing series of callback auditions for a big production, we shared not one but many tips on how to really make it in the thespic trade, and some talents urged us to write a book on the subject. We already have a number of book projects in the pipeline, so that sounds like a really tall order. Perhaps this article will do for now?
How does a promising talent who’s prepared to work really hard discover “the logic behind the magic” of memorable acting? First, he should ask himself the really basic question that many wannabes don’t even bother trying to figure out: “Why do people spend a lot of time, effort and money to watch dramatic productions?”
Of course, they do it to pass the time, to be entertained—but, beyond that, what else are they looking for? Here’s the first “secret”: They watch dramas to discover the truth they’re looking for in their own lives, but can’t find because everybody around them is acting, putting on a public face, and therefore not being truthful.
That’s really ironic, isn’t it? “Real” people are in fact acting all the time, and the truths about the human condition can be learned from stage and TV-film actors who have trained themselves not to pretend, but to really, truly think, feel and act!
Therefore, if you want to become a really good thespian, you have to be prepared to express your real, actual emotions, which you then “lend” to the character you are assigned to play.
That sounds easy, but it’s in fact very difficult for many would-be actors to pull off, because it requires complete honesty, humility, generosity, and the ability to implicitly believe and be whatever the scripted scene requires.
In addition, most actors fail as honest emoters because they’re so wrapped up in themselves that they aren’t really interested in or concerned about the character they’re assigned to portray.
As a result, the “character” ends up only as a mere variation of the actor’s own self, when it’s the opposite that’s required—that the actor should “disappear” into his role.
Many actors love their good-looking and charismatic selves so much that they refuse to do any “disappearing”! So, they go from role to role playing minute variations on themselves, until the sameness bores everyone to tears (except the actors involved).
Nothing less than the truth being of the essence on the part of the audience, it should also be the paramount consideration for the actor, who trains himself to understand his assigned role so much that he can genuinely feel whatever it is the character is feeling, as if it were actually happening to himself.
For this to happen, the actor’s empathetic focus on the character rather than on himself has to be complete. Not many actors are prepared to be so generous, self-effacing and humble, so many are called, but only a few are chosen.
It happens so rarely that, when it does, the audience loves the generous and humble actor all the more for it—and the psychic cycle of performance is completed.
That, in a NUT-shell, is “the logic behind the magic” of truly outstanding and affecting performances. Learn it if you can—or dare.
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