Monday, April 23, 2012

Acting without Acting

Lao-Tse, the founder of Taoism, said,"To act without acting is the goal of Taoism." Though he was not speaking of theatre and cinema, what he said has great import to how today's actors approach their craft.

Many actors are self conscious when they begin acting. This is due to their not concentrating on the proper things. They need to concentrate on the stimuli of the scene, rather than concentrate on the fact they are on stage or in front of a camera. Acting needs to be as natural as possible and that is only achieved when the actor is not self conscious. Thus, they need not act the part, but represent it as though they were actually in the imaginary circumstances of the play.

"Isn't acting pretending to be someone else?" some ask. No pretending to be someone else is deception. Today's actors do not pretend,nor do they deceive. They respond naturally and without inhibition to the emotional circumstances at each moment of the scene. It is the response of the individual actor that makes an honest representation of the character. To pretend or deceive takes a conscious effort by the person doing the pretense or deception. The actor must not think about what he is doing or how he is doing it Rather, he just does it. He acts without acting.

Another place that actors find themselves defeated by self consciousness is in the interview or cold reading. Because, they are not prepared for what happens in these circumstances, actors often put on a personality for interviews and try to make detailed characters out of their roles in cold readings. Such things cause perceptible pretense. And in neither situation does the actor want to come off as not being genuine. To avoid this, the actor just needs to respond naturally to the questions of the interview and then just read the lines of the cold copy naturally without a layer of character added. When casting nowadays, directors want to use the actor who, without changes, best represents the role..They are not casting the character. The character has already been created by the playwright or screenwriter. They are casting the natural human being who best represents the character.

Actors need to learn to do naturally what was at the time the most difficult thing a director ever asked me to do on stage. He wanted me to be myself and be charming. At that time, I had not learned how to act without acting. It took a while to catch on. Work on it. No pretense. Just be yourself and be charming.

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