As we discovered in Truth In Performance, both process and technique are two of the essential skills an actor must have in order to navigate a long and successful career in the industry. Whilst it's easy to imitate performance, character and, in many cases, emotion, there is no depth nor truth in work which is constructed from mimicking a performance which has already played out. The question is, how can you sustain or ‘replay’ what you found intuitively in rehearsal or a past performance or ‘take’? Do you even know what you did or how you got there? The discovery process is essential to find the truth within your performance, not simply once, but time and time again. In order to find depth of character and performance, one must develop their process so they have the ability to understand where their intuitive choices came from, and then how they can construct the work in a way that allows them to achieve that authentically time and time again. This personal and unique process is where you the actor and your character meet. Keeping dialogue real, choices active and creating a fully realized three-dimensional character with a rich backstory. Stepping away from cliché, caricature, or a thin external representation of someone who barely resembles a human being. The audience must believe what you say is real and that you're not reciting, spouting or commenting.
Captivating performances, like captivating writing, are often in the eyes of the beholder; yet all audiences know when they are in the presence of greatness. Untrained or unrefined actors may be able to do enough to get by on screen, at least once or twice, but will most certainly fare badly upon the stage. The performance most worth watching is the one that thrills us in any capacity - stage, screen, zoom or otherwise. It's where the actor knows no limitations and instinct and technique are in perfect balance yet also opposition. Flamboyance and inner life collide, transforming feeling into thought and words which have been written for us as actors to embody as full realized, layered + alive characters. It’s this combination of release and control that leaves people reeling to see the performance again.
There are always tricks to help you find that performance and ‘state-of-being’, Laurence Olivier liked his putty to mold a nose, or a hump provided by costume department to alter and extenuate physical attributes of character, any actor would. These items of ‘assistance’ were not the makings of great actor, rather it was something that he mined from deep inside himself, something that perhaps the poetic would call ‘soul’. Actors can learn timing, blocking, infrastructure; however perhaps the most important lesson is knowing who you are as an actor, what your process is and how it defines your work. Do not be afraid of technique, of change and of constant discovery, for your process will evolve and change as you do. Lets’ start with the first step....
HOW DO YOU DISCOVER YOUR PROCESS? HOW WILL YOU DEFINE THE STEPS?
ACTORS ENROLLED IN THIS PROGRAM MUST HAVE COMPLETED TRUTH IN PERFORMANCE FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS. OR HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO PARTICIPATE AT THE DISCRETION OF AAFTA.
The typical relaxation exercise asks actors to move every body part from their fingers to their facial muscles in small circles. With each movement, actors identify tension and release it. Actors are encouraged to make open + relaxed “ahh” sounds + sighs when necessary to release emotional tension that may arise.
The song and dance exercise tries to get actors out of their habitual patterns and into a state of genuine, unpredictable expression. Actors are asked to sing a familiar song one syllable at a time, accompanying each syllable with unique, unpredictable, and unprepared movements.
- Sense memory: Sense memory exercises encourage actors to use all five senses to recall physical sensations from their memory. Sense memory exercises are designed to train actors’ focus on stimulating feelings to create rich responses on a stage or set. Actors may be asked to recall their childhood bedroom or the sensation of a specific, sharp pain.
Who am I? — The characteristics that make up the character: background, age, etc.
Where am I? — This isn’t just limited to the physical scene or setting, but the character’s position within the narrative.
When is it? — Figuring out the time of day, month, year, point in time, and how that affects how the character would be portrayed.
What do I want? — The goal(s) of this character within the entire narrative or even within a specific scene.
Why do I want it? — The motivation that leads the character to the above goal.
How will I get it? — How the character sets out to achieve the goal(s) and how that shifts along with the narrative.
What do I need to overcome? — What stands in their way?
We tend to approach most situations in accordance with our morals and worldview, but as we collect experiences, those views and morals change. Eg Lying is wrong, but we realize lying can be acceptable if the intent is to spare someone’s feelings, or if the lie doesn’t cause anyone damage. Maybe we live by the rule that lying is wrong no matter what. Point is our morals, character, and perspectives are not set in stone. They are open to changing, and yet they must be solid enough to guide us through life and help us make the right decisions most of the time. Your job is create characters that each have their own morality and worldview that may not reflect your own. How does one do that? How do you create layered characters that do things you, as a person, feel is immoral or differ so much from your own perspective. Let go of your own perspective. You are no longer yourself. You are your characters. They are not bad or good or evil or angelic. They are people with histories and experiences that differ from yours. And because of those experiences, they have settled on a view of the world that’s different from yours. And you must understand why they think what they think and do what they do based on their own perspectives. If you can do that, you can play characters that are relatable to an audience even if they do things that most people wouldn’t.
A Private Moment: In this exercise, actors perform an activity on stage that they typically do in private. The chosen activity should be so private that they would stop if another person walked into the room—for instance, examining your pores in a magnifying mirror or doing an embarrassing dance. Strasberg also encouraged actors to identify the sensations and textures of important personal objects to see how they handled and treated them.
Animal Exercise - Move and behave like animals or speak in gibberish to shake societal patterns and habits out of their system.