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Week Summary

This article is a summary of the first week

In this first week I’ve tried to introduce a way of thinking that is really at the core of everything I have to teach, and everything that’s ever helped me as an actor and an acting student. The first steps of a guide to getting out of your own way. Hopefully this is starting to give you an idea of a new and more practical approach to your acting.

We started our investigation by asking ourselves the most basic question: “What is acting?”. And I then suggested an answer to that question using Meisner’s definition:

“…acting is living truthfully under given imaginary circumstances”.

While analyzing that statement, we arrived at a second quote from Meisner:

“the foundation of acting is the reality of doing”.

And everything else has then been based on that simple idea.

Important to remember here is that in asking what acting is, we’re looking for an answer that is helpful to us as actors. There might be other answers that are equally true, but some of them might be more academic in nature and not as easily translatable into specific actions we can take to further our craft. It’s also true that we’re assuming a specific idea of what kind of acting we’re thinking about. But it’s an idea that I think covers the kind of acting that most of us will spend most of our time on.

We’ve then identified that our biggest hurdle as actors is self-consciousness, which is mostly rooted in fear and in impossible demands that we put on ourselves. They are impossible usually because we don’t really know what it is that we’re asking of ourselves.

Getting up in front of other people to perform something is just not a very natural thing to do. It takes great courage. And so, instead of worrying about trying to be someone else, we need to put our focus on what we’re doing and get on with being brave.

Acting really is doing. Nothing else. It’s right there in the word. The question then becomes: what am I supposed to do?

As we will get into there’s a few ways to think about that question, but the most fundamental and important answer is this: listen and answer.

When approaching any acting situation, the first thing to do is to put your focus on your partner. Don’t worry so much about what you’re doing. What are they doing? And how do you feel about that? That’s the beginning of everything.

As we’ve now started talking about listening and answering and this concept will be a fundamental part of the rest of this course, I want to take a moment and say a few more words about what I mean by answering. Answering in this context doesn’t mean simply saying your line in response to the other actor’s line. It is much more about simply and spontaneously reacting to the other person’s behavior. To let your behavior be affected by what the other person is doing. To let your impulses to do anything come from the other person and not from your own head. The other actor’s behavior produces behavior in you that will in turn produce behavior in them, and so on and back and forth.

Try to think about how this works in your daily interactions with other people. I think you will find that you communicate with each other much more with behavior than just simply the meaning of the words. Your friend might start telling you a story using a lot of hand gestures to make you excited about what they’re talking about, and you may in turn start nodding your head to encourage them to go on, and then maybe they pause for a moment and take a breath because they don’t feel your appreciating the gravity of what they’re trying to tell you, and then you lean forward to show that you really are listening, and so on… Do you see what I’m saying?

In order to really get to work it’s not just good, but absolutely necessary, to get past those first self-reflecting ideas of good and bad, talented or not, emotional or not. Really of the idea that you’re supposed to be, portray or show anything other than yourself as you are in this very moment.

Good job completing week 1. See you again in week 2.

© Luleå University of Technology
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Introduction to Acting

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