What follows is a discussion I recently had with an acting student I am mentoring. We are discussing the training he is getting in a univeristy acting program. His comments are in normal face and mine are in bold face. We start by discussing that acting in doing and not talking, that plays are stories told in action and plays are not conversation. (See also The Tao of Acting, my ebook that is on line).
They have stressed the importance that plays are not conversation quite heavily--I failed to mention that in the email. 'Glad to hear it.
We have been taught the importance of doing and what is happening in the scene. Exactly, the pantomimic dramatization of the scene is done by converting the dialogue into the action it represents.
According to my professor, the actor's job is to do something, and you want something and you want it badly right now, and what makes the action dynamic is the actor's energetic pursuit of the character's said goal in the scene's circumstances. OK. I won't argue the point. I would substitute that your job is to react physically because you have a strong emotional response to what has just occurred.
An example that my professor used was from Chekhov's Three Sisters show--how one of Masha's lines is, "I'm bored, bored, bored," and Masha saying that is to get un-bored by stimulating something desirable, in other words, to act upon her environment in order to change it. Great example. To act bored, the actor must react energetically to the stimuli that makes her so express herself. I don't agree about acting upon her environment, I would rather say react to her environment as a response to the stimuli. I think wanting to change the environment puts too many 'have to's' in the actor's head which should be clear and open to receiving stimuli so the actor can react.
We were also taught to always play the positive, no matter how bleak its outcome or situation is.Good. The negative goes nowhere and inhibits action. To play the positive is to have a strong emotional response that moves the scene onward, but the business of moving the scene onward is the natural result of the strong response of the actor and the actor does not have to be thinking about moving the scene or making a choice that is positive. If the actor has an uninhibited, strong emotional response the positive will happen.
But yes, in short, we have been taught the importance of action. IT is called ACTing after all.