Observations on the state of things, mostly acting, anything theatre, and an occassional political remark.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Who are you when you act on stage?
Stage acting requires many things of the actor that screen acting does not. While both media want the actor to 'be the character,' what remains important is what you do not want to be. Some people worry that film acting is just being oneself and film actors rely only on personality. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
No acting is just being oneself. If you take the time to analyze who the characters are in the story-- heroes, villians, lovers, etc. --and what they do in the story, it takes no great brain to figure out that these characters and their actions are a far cry from who the actor is and what the actor does. This being said, we must remember that effective acting is allowing yourself to have full, honest, emotional responses that are not self concious. It is the actor's ability to have such emotional responses that makes her acting truthful. So while we are not just being ourselves, it is our responses that make our acting effective.
We also have to be the character on stage or screen, not the actor nor the audience. We cannot be the audience and respond as they do to the stimuli of the scene because that response may be different from the repsonse of the character. To be the character, the actor first assumes the physical manifestation of the character, posture, walk, mannerisms, dress, hair style, voice, etc., Then the actor concentrates on being the character in the scene by listening very carefully with all of her senses to what is happening and allowing herself to react emotionally, fully and with our inhibition to what is happening--That is acting.
Pretty much that is all the screen actor has to do. Stage acting is harder than film acting in that while you are doing all of this, you also have to be aware of audience response. For example, if the audience laughs the actor needs to hold for the laugh so the audience don't miss the next laugh. When the actor hears the audience laugh, she freezes for a moment and when the laugh peaks and starts to weaken, she continues doing the scene. IF she has started a sentence when she freezes, when she continues she repeats the beginning of the sentence. Furthermore, the actor is always aware of what she is doing in the scene when she expresses her emotions, so that she doesn't actually injure herself or anyone else in the scene.
So you can be described as several people when you act. First you are the actor. She is the one who has created the physical character and who responds emotionally to the stimuli of the scene. Then you can be described as the character. She is the one who says and does the things in the play. It is critically important not to confuse the actor and her role. You should not say of the actress playing Medea that Sally Jones (if that is the actress' name) killed her two children to avenge the unfaithfulnes of her husband. No, Medea does that, not Sally. Let's always keep the actor and the role separate.
I am a retired university theatre professor and program director. I worked as a SAG actor for ten years. I advise aspiring actors for free. I have a free ebook on how to prepare for an acting career. Find it on my web site: http://tao-of-acting.org