The primary goal for this chapter is to describe and explain the process of acting. The role of the actor is addressed in terms of his or her collaboration with other theatre artists.
Onstage and Offstage Acting
1. Actors rely on their mimetic instinct to convey their art form.
2. Actors in performance are always aware that they are acting. Everyday role-playing is often unconscious.
3. Actors onstage must constantly be aware of their vocal and physical presence.
4. Working within the parameters that the director has given, an actor interprets the character.
5. Actors must learn to work as an ensemble, giving and taking focus as the scene develops.
6. To become an actor, one must have a strong drive to succeed and a steadfast belief in one’s ability.
7. Serious actors continue their training for the duration of their careers.
Tools of the Actor
1. The work of a good actor will never call attention to itself.
2. To express feelings honestly, an actor must train his or her voice and body through rigorous discipline to the point that the work appears effortless.
1. An actor must be continuously willing to learn.
2. An actor must learn the acting techniques necessary to execute various styles of drama.
3. An actor must learn to analyze a role to discover the complexities within the character.
1. An actor’s body must be fit and flexible to sustain the high demands of a rigorous work schedule.
2. Actors are often called on to perform intricate or difficult physical activities.
1. Actors must develop their voices to their fullest potential.
2. An actor needs good control of vocal quality, pitch, and volume in order to portray a range of emotions.
3. An actor’s voice must have strength and endurance, which is gained only through extensive training and exercise.
1. An actor is an observer of life who can call upon past experiences to add color to a role.
2. Much of an actor’s training is self-training, learning to feel both physically and emotionally.
3. Actors must be sensitive to themselves and to others so that they can project themselves into a character.
Freeing the Imagination
1. An actor must have a keen imagination and know how to use it in creating a role.
2. An actor needs to use his or her imagination to determine what it would be like to live the life of the character being portrayed.
3. Actors use their imagination and observations to figure out how characters might express emotion, move, or carry their bodies.
4. An actor’s creativity is largely intuitive, based on prior knowledge.
5. An experienced actor remains open to feeling and perception while experimenting to discover the character being portrayed.
6. Through characterization, actors present an illusion of life.
1. Training often begins with classes in oral interpretation, singing, dancing, and fencing.
2. Actors often participate in game playing to build ensemble skills and to explore how individuals respond in given situations.
3. Actors participate in improvisation to help develop their creativity and their ability to think on their feet.
4. Actors practice using sense memory to become more aware of all aspects of their environment.
5. Less-traditional training includes psychological and emotional exercises to stimulate the senses.
6. Sensitivity training helps actors to trust one another and develop confidence while breaking down barriers.
7. Ritual and tradition may be a component of actor training.
1. Actors must understand the various stage areas and the implications of various types of movement on stage.
2. Actors must know what body positions can suggest, and how to balance a stage picture.
3. Actors must be able to perform in a variety of styles, from historic to contemporary.
4. Actors must be able to communicate with and without words, using subtle expressions and gestures.
5. Actors must be collaborative artists willing to work as members of a team.
Approaches to Acting
1. Actors seek to transform themselves temporarily into a character.
2. Accomplished actors can portray a range of roles without the aid of unusual makeup or costume. They simply understand how to use their voice, body, and mind to transform themselves into the character.
The Internal Approach
1. The internal approach to acting was developed by director Konstantin Stanislavsky of the Moscow Art Theatre. The approach is now called the Stanislavsky System.
2. Stanislavsky sought to present dramatic truth through an observation of life and nature.
3. Stanislavsky formed the concept of emotional memory, that is, relating a past memory to similar circumstances in a play in order to feel an emotion.
4. An actor using the internal approach is said to seek the truth of the character.
The External Approach
1. The external approach to acting is largely concerned with technique.
2. The proponents of the external approach do not believe an actor must understand the emotional state of a character, but instead should model the outward signs of the emotion, such as a frown to indicate sadness.
3. Critics of the external approach claim the actors are merely concerned with effect instead of feeling.
4. Regardless of the approach used, actors must perform on two levels, one concerned with analysis and technique, and the other focused on feelings, veracity, and the appearance of life.
Developing a Character
1. An actor must be sure that his or her performance brings out the exposition and character traits necessary for the audience to understand the role.
2. Directors will often lead the actor through improvisation to discover more about the character and what has brought the person to the present circumstances.
3. The actor must project how the character feels about his or her relationship to the other characters and to the situation.
4. Actors must remember that listening is as important as speaking on stage.
5. The actor’s job is to create and interpret a character, and to keep an element of spontaneity in every performance.
Analyzing a Role
1. An actor using the internal approach must first discover the spine, or superobjective, for the character.
2. The actor then breaks the play into short scenes or units of action to discover the reasons for the character’s actions and reactions as the play unfolds.
3. Finally, the actor analyzes individual scenes to determine specific objectives that contribute to the overall goal of the character.
Determining the Character’s Makeup
1. An actor must be specific in determining the physical makeup of a character. An actor may choose to change apparent age, hair color, and posture to aid in character development.
2. Actors are free to develop a more complete background for their character than has been provided by the playwright.
3. The more an actor knows about a character; the easier it is to create the character on stage.
4. Actors must understand how their character views the world.
5. Characters are often a combination of a type and an individual. To individualize a character, an actor may choose to emphasize a distinctive trait that may or may not have been provided by the playwright.
1. Some character analysis occurs before rehearsals begin, but the character continues to build and grow.
2. An actor must determine how his or her character feels toward the other characters and why.
3. The rehearsal process involves exploring relationships and delving further into the character.
Memorizing Lines and Business and Interpreting Ideas
1. Actors immediately begin to memorize lines and business.
2. The director may ask actors to ad-lib a scene in their own words to help them understand the scene.
3. Actors must memorize their cues, that is, the lines of action preceding their own.
The Business of Acting
1. Making a living as an actor is difficult. Many actors must have other jobs to support their acting.
2. There are opportunities in nearly every city to act, but rarely will this provide enough income to live on.
3. Actors’ Equity Association is the professional actors’ union. Generally, only ten percent of those enrolled in the union are employed as actors at any given time.
1. Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863—1938) was a Russian actor-director-teacher. He advocated a balance between the actor’s inner experiencing of the role and its precisely attuned physical and vocal expression. His concepts of the “magic if,” affective memory, the circle of attention, and the through-line of action have become common vocabulary in many acting schools throughout the world.
2. The Moscow Art Theatre was founded in 1898 by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. The theatre was dedicated to the highest ideals of ensemble art, good citizenship, and public education. The company strived for naturalness, simplicity, and clarity in their work, in direct contrast to the declamatory acting used at the time.