I’ve been thinking this week about the spaces that often get closed when an actor is working. But I’ve been really thinking about what would/could happen if an actor could train themselves to keep those spaces open instead. More places for magic, for art, for being really present.
So these spaces that I’m talking about happen at different times but they feel the same. An actor can describe it as getting in their heads, losing their goal/objective/whateverthehellelseyouwanttocallit, dropping a line, getting distracted. Regardless of the reason it happens, the outcome generally goes something like this: PANIC! What is happening?! What should I do now?! All is lost!!
But, what if there was a way to take those times (which aren’t going anywhere folks – at least unless you’re going to become a Zen Master of Ridiculously Awesome Focus and Concentration) and do something else with them other than PANIC! What is happening?! What should I do now?! All is lost!!
I mean, yes, a large part of acting is learning to focus and connect. It is very VERY important to work on those things. They are the building blocks to showing up and being present which are paramount to good acting. However, there will always come times, even for actors with wonderful concentration abilities where something takes you out of it.
So back to what to do when that happens other than PANIC! etc.
What if an actor could take that space where PANIC usually sets in and create an open space where myriad other things could happen? In acting classes you’ll often hear that you should focus on your scene partner or remind yourself of your goal in moments where you are out/off/not where you wanted to be. Hell, in MY acting classes you’ll hear that. But I wonder if that’s too limiting. We want to allow artists to make art. And while I believe with every inch of my being that it’s through mad preparation that we allow for the most open spaces for art to happen, maybe there are other ways, complementary ways. What if while you’re busy forgetting your line, you teach your brain to let go of PANIC! etc. and keep yourself open for something else to happen? I can think of a bunch of exciting things that could happen if you would allow them. Moments of surprise.
This also applies to overplanning tactis/actions/whateverthehellelseyouwanttocallthem. We know what tactics a character uses, right? I mean, we did read the script, right? In that case, knowing those tactics, working those tactics, preparing like a crazy person to get those tactics cellular is enough. They will flow on their own in the scene. If you don’t plan tactical choices beat by beat that should open up some space too, don’t you think?
For actors, so much is planned. Your lines, your blocking, your costume, your props – planned for you. You do intense script analysis – planned by you. In other art forms, it’s more obvious how to create open space. But for actors, finding that space is what allows a performance to transcend, to BREATHE.
Love the actors in your life more.