Saturday, March 27, 2010

Improv, acting and real life

A student asked me about doing improv, using her life experience and acting. She said because of family stress she found it impossible to act convincingly and her performances were artificial. She had an audition for a TV Workshop that contained an improv section and she was worried she would not do it well. I replied: Well, improv is not the same as acting. It is a combination of skit writing and acting which the players do simultaneously. I do not believe that improv is good training for actors, although many actors are good at improv. Plays and films are done from scripts and often the directors and playwrights usually want you to be word perfect in your lines. Only occasionally are you asked to improvise in a film, and for plays only in rehearsals, although I do not care for the practice. Then, you have to understand that your personal life has nothing at all to do with your acting. They are two different things. I agree with David Mamet who says that you should leave your private life at home and the theater at the theatre. Acting deals with the imaginary, not with real life. Nothing messes up an actor's mind like being taught that his real life should be used in his acting. That is Method claptrap. An actor's real emotional reactions to the imaginary situations of plays and films are used in acting. The free expression of emotion is what makes an effective actor. But the theatre and cinema are not real life, far from it. They are contrived and unnecessary details are eliminated to get to what is exciting and interesting, just as they are in all art. You need to relax and play, for that is what acting is. Don't pretend anything, allow yourself to react to the moments of the play just as you do when watching a movie. Your real life is gone and the imaginary world of the play takes over. I think you just need some practice. I don't like the TV workshop for you at this point. I think a scene class or audition class would be better.

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