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The Reality of Doing

Johan Forslund shares information about an approach to acting, focusing on the "doing"
How do we create truthful life? Just do the doing. But really do it. Sanford Meisner defined acting as, “living truthfully under given imaginary circumstances”. And to understand this a bit better we can exchange the word “living” for “doing” . Doing truthfully under given imaginary circumstances. And another way of thinking about “doing truthfully”– –is saying that “the foundation of acting is the reality of doing”. Now, what does all this mean? Well, stay with me and let’s see if we can use this idea of “the reality of doing”– –to create some truthful life.
If I give myself a well-defined task then I can really try to carry it out. I don’t have to pretend, I can simply do it. I can tie my shoe. I can open a window. I can balance a book on my head. You can really listen to me talking. Or you can pretend, I guess, but that just seems more complicated. Really doing any of these things however, will produce simple truthful life in you. And as a bonus you don’t have to think about yourself or about performing anything.
Now, try this: I want you to close your eyes and sing a song in your head. Any song you like. Not out loud, just in your head. Ok, go ahead.
Did you do it? Did you really do it or did you pretend to do it? Now, sing the song again in your head– –but this time tap your foot on every other syllable HA-ppy BIRTH-day TO you.
Again, did you do it or were you pretending to do it? If you really did it, then that’s a good start. I also think you may have noticed something. As you were doing these things, I bet your behaviour changed in some way. You may have become very still and focused– –or maybe you were nodding your head to the music. Something. And maybe something else happened too. Maybe you felt something. The song maybe did something to you. Or maybe it was difficult tapping your foot on every other syllable– –and so maybe you felt something as a result of that. It doesn’t matter what.
But I would guess that the act of simply doing these things– –started to produce some life in you. So, start thinking about your acting as a series of things that you do. And just simply really do them.
A good way to think about this is in terms of a game or sports. I like football so let’s talk about that for a bit. The same ingredients are here. The rules of the game are our imaginary circumstances. There’s no real reason for why it would have any value– –that one team succeeds in, without using their hands– –placing the ball in the other team’s net. But we have decided that it is so because that seems like fun to do and watch. Within the framework of this imaginary circumstance– –the players are now really trying to do something. They are trying to score a goal.
As a result of this effort a lot of things will happen emotionally– –with both the players and the audience. They and we will get happy, sad, frustrated, angry and so forth. But the only thing we and they have to do to make this happen is to commit to the doing. The rest will happen by itself.
Just like football is a game, so is a theatre performance, or the work of the actor. Our job then is first of all to find out what game we are playing. What are the rules and what is the end goal? Now, I want to say this up front, so as to avoid any confusion. Of course, there are any number of things– –that you can’t really do for real on stage or in movies. Things involving violence or physical intimacy or anything that is dangerous in any way. Or for that matter something as simple as sneezing. Just to name a few. This is not what the reality of doing means. Everything we do as actors is of course pretending.
It’s a game of make believe. But we can approach that game in different ways. Most of the examples that I’ve just mentioned for instance– –can be thought of as a piece of choreography. And a piece of choreography is something that you can do. Doing the choreography will put your focus outside of yourself. Pretending the choreography will put the focus on yourself. You see what I mean?
And if you have to sneeze– –well just fake it as truthfully as you can– –with all the conviction you can muster.
In this video, Johan talks about how to create truthful life by really doing something. Not pretending to do something, but actually simply doing it.

As a first exercise Johan asks us to close our eyes and:

  1. Choose a song, and sing it in our head.
  2. And then, while still singing, tapping every other syllable with our right foot.

If we actually did those things he asked us to do, instead of pretending to do them, then we’re approaching what Meisner calls “the reality of doing”.

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Introduction to Acting

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