"Acting is not about pretending or faking - instead, it is being more truthful and vulnerable in front of people than we are in real life," said Lindsay, the instructor for this class.
We engaged in the discussion on acting during our first ever lesson in scene study.
Q: Why do people go to see plays or movies?
A: To find connections with the characters and the stories. The real life is full of danger and pain, so people only go to their pure and truthful emotions when viewing these stories.
Q: What is "good acting"?
A: We pursue Organic Acting in this program. It means to be in the moment, react to what you receive, and act from our guts instead of our heads. We need to remove layers of general behavior and self protection in service of art, and we have nothing more to use other than our own bodies. There aren't actors with better skills, there are only actors that are less blocked.
KEYWORDS for acting:
Our 3 instruments: Body, Voice, Imagination
2 qualities that make acting good: Commitment & Specificity
1 thing to always follow: Impulse
Through playing games like "Whoa", "What R U Doing" and "Sound Ball," we learned that when acting we need to be restfully attentive all the time, just like a cat who is ready to catch a rat - 100% concentrated in its mind but relaxed in its body so that it can jump far. Also, we should not plan things before our turn, but rather trust our gut (adding to that, the most moving acting we see or the most emotionally intense moment is when the actor goes with her gut instead of her head). Moreover, in "Sound Ball," Lindsay told us that it is the small human things that makes the acting vivid, for example, when someone threw a ball and started laughing. We need to capture the laughter because this makes what we are doing more specific and real.
MEISNER & THE "REPETITION"
Starting off, the modern Western acting system is built based on the theories created by Konstantin Stanislavski (1863-1938). His system trains actors to gain "psychological realism" and seek for theatrical "truth" on stage.
Moving on, there appeared some theatre theorists who developed their own systems based on their interpretations on Stanislavki's system. Among them, Lee Strasberg is known for Method Acting, and Sanford Meisner emphasized "acting is reacting," "everything you need is on your partner." He described acting as "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances," and emphasized "moment-to-moment" spontaneity on stage.
Throughout the week, every one of us in class went through the exercise - two-people "Repetition." Here is an example on YouTube. (It comes as a series, I have just linked the first clip.)
Since Meisner believes that everything an actor needs comes from her partner, then how well the actor can read her partner's behavior becomes vital. In "Repetition," I really got to concentrate and pick up on my partner's behavior and to call it out. By watching and doing this exercise, I understood what Lindsay said about everyone has their own behavior of protecting themselves - some use humor, some avoid eye contact and look to the side, some keep smiling... There is nothing wrong with habits and self protection, but peeling this layer off can show us more bold and honest feelings within a person. And it cannot be more important than being able to read others' behavior, especially on stage. The metaphor that "Repetition" needs to be carried out like a ping-pong match suggests actors need to pick up on subtle and instant behaviors in order to further react.
"The only people who would want to cry are actors. In real life people are always trying not to cry. The only people who would want to feel pains are actors. In real life people always avoid actually feeling pain," said Lindsay.
In the exercise, we also got to tell a personal story/reveal some part of ourselves that is not often shown to people. Those are real-life examples of monologues. Here are some important notes of realistic story-telling:
When getting to the saddest part, most of us were smiling instead of bursting into tears. That's the very human thing to do.
When we say we hate someone or are mad at someone in a monologue, what we really mean underneath is that we love them. We love so that we care, we care so that it hurts. We all understand this as human beings, so we need to put it in acting as well.
The words or phrases that are swept away often contain a lot of information. (e.g. "My dad loves my other three siblings. Well, he is really mean to my youngest sister but... yeah overall he is a good father." It is obvious to the audience that there is something serious with the speaker's youngest sister.)
We have a huge amount of images inside our heads. When doing a monologue, it is important to visualize what we are saying, and enable the audience to visualize the words as well. So it is also essential to be specific about the images.
We don't want to see a character with a perfect life and has composed herself very well. We want to see a character who struggles, who fights for something and becomes vulnerable because of it. The parts that we feel embarrassed or self-conscious are the parts that displays the most of human nature and hits the audience the hardest. Always keep this in mind.
Imagination is when an actor gets into the moment by solely imagining their situation, while substitution is when an actor pulls personal experience into the story and substitute some parts of the situation. As actors we should aim for combining the two to find the best way to connect to our characters.
There isn't such things as "characters". When we act them out, they are just ourselves in different dimensions. We look for connections so that we can act truthfully under the given circumstances.
Connection should not be built on emotions. It should be built on what the character needs and what is blocking her. If we commit into the circumstances and be specific when we imagine or substitute, the emotions will naturally flow.
It has been a lot to receive in one and a half weeks, and I am very looking forward to further exploration on these concepts :)