Tuesday, 30 August 2016 11:35
While I was on tour I was invited to dinner at the home of a tour-mate's friend. As we sat around the dinner table one of the hosts, a business guy, stated that he thought that actors were prone to prideful, self-arrogance because the actor, him or herself, was the subject of the art. He went on to say that business people, on the other hand, don't have that struggle because they're able to separate themselves from their work.
What!?!? I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Thinking that we were having an open discussion I decided to chime in on my actual experience of both being an actor and working with actors. Most actors, I explained, don't walk around with a smug sense of satisfaction and arrogant pride about their work. The opposite is actually true. It's precisely because the actor is the subject in their work that actors can be quite vulnerable and can sometimes find confidence to be rather elusive.
The table grew quiet as I spoke in defense of actors because, what silly me did not understand, was that my host, this man-of-the-house type, had the last word on everything—differing opinions were not welcome. As I was a guest in this man's home, I shut my mouth and moved on, but I've never forgotten the premise of that discussion.
I know from working with actors on a daily basis how much struggle there can be in the work. I know that confidence can be fleeting. I know just how much an actor has to put themselves out there, taking wild risks within their work with nowhere to hide. Actors are prone to struggle with this challenge on a "normal" day when things appear to be going well, but it becomes even more problematic when an actor is faced with difficulties arising from the challenge of the work itself.
It would be great if my host was right and actors always walked around beaming with self-confidence. But for those of us dealing with the roller coaster reality of acting, I offer a strategy for dealing with the downs so you can get moving up again.
Actors can begin to unravel when faced with acting problems and these problems can sometimes feel insurmountable, but determining with pinpoint accuracy exactly where the root of their acting issue stems from can have a profoundly calming effect. Clearly identifying the type of acting challenge they're facing helps actors feel resourceful and able to move from problem to solution.
I find that when an actor is having an issue it typically falls somewhere within one of these 5 categories:
Acting Issue vs. Mental or Emotional Block: Many mental or emotional blocks disguise themselves as acting technique issues. Once the block has shifted, actors feel free again in their work.
Technical Error: Sometimes the struggle in the work feels enormous, but it is not. A quick fix is all that's needed to remedy what I call a Technical Error— i.e.do this, don't do that.
Material Misinterpretation: In an effort to do good work, sometimes actors miss critical given circumstances and text information and as a result end up way off in left field. Once the text has been meticulously investigated, the actor's work realigns and they are once again moving forward.
Different Acting Tool Required: You can't drill a hole in the wall with a wrench and the same thinking applies to approaching a role. A major acting shift can be accomplished by using the right acting tool for the right material.
Foundational Acting Issue: Yep, these are the big ones. Not all acting problems are quickly solvable and some need consistent, focused attention for a shift to occur. Avoidance doesn't help here. If you're dealing with a foundational acting issue take heart, by making a commitment to study and practice these issues can be overcome. I promise!
The next time an acting issue crops up, instead of going into stress mode I invite you to take a deep cleansing breath and focus a clear eye toward determining exactly where your issue lies. Identifying the problem is the key to being solution oriented so you can get to the other side of your issue and act with unfettered freedom and joyful confidence.