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The Definition of Acting

This article contains more in-depth information on how acting can be defined.

Ok. Here’s my answer. Or, rather, here’s Sanford Meisner’s answer.

Meisner said that “the definition of acting is living truthfully under given imaginary circumstances”, and this is a definition that, even though it might be a bit broad, I think is a good starting point.

Remember in the beginning of the course I said that actors work within a story. That they inhabit a fictional universe that becomes real to us. So real, in fact, that we get emotionally invested in it.

So, let’s take a moment and break this statement down and see how it relates to how we might experience acting.

If we start from the end here: given imaginary circumstances. That seems to cover the fictional side of things. That’s the story, the place, the situation etc. The imaginary framework inside which the actor works.

And then we have this other part: living truthfully. Now we’re approaching that thing that captures us, and it’s here that it starts to become interesting. The first part isn’t so complicated, we have a story that’s made up. But then within this framework we’re somehow supposed to create truthful life. How do we do that, what do we mean by that? What do we, first of all, mean by “living”?

If I were to recount a portion of my life, say from when I woke up this morning and until now, it would go something like this: I woke up, got out of bed, took a shower, got dressed, made breakfast etc. What all these things have in common is that they are things that I did. So that’s a very concrete description of life.

We’re all doing something all the time. I’m writing, you’re reading. To put things very generally. So, if nothing else we’ve taken a very large concept, living, and boiled it down to something more tangible: living is doing. Now, let’s see how this idea works for our purposes.

In the following two videos I will go deeper into what I believe to be the two most important concepts in acting. To me, these ideas is the foundation that everything else is built on. So, watch these videos and make note of anything you find interesting or difficult or confusing.

How did your definition of acting align with what you’ve just read? Was it similar to Meisner’s, or was it different? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
© Luleå University of Technology
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Introduction to Acting

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