Read on, because things are about to get interesting…
Whether I knew it or not, I was always a performer growing up. I always loved playing as TV characters when on the playground as opposed to football. When I discovered the stage, I was hooked. My journey took me all the way from my New Orleans home to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to get my bachelor’s degree in Acting. I dedicated my life to the role of a performer, and I wish I could go back and teach myself all the things I know now… to make my personal course a little smoother.
The biggest question I had as a young performer is, “What is my method?” I thought I should know what I needed to do to prepare myself for a role naturally, but an actor’s method is a unique thing. It’s like a fingerprint, but even more personal, since it can’t truly be categorized. The one thing every person in the entire industry will tell you about acting, is that an honest performance is key to every lock for actors.
To get an honest performance, you need to have a grasp on your process. But, which process is the right fit? I’m a firm believer in the fact that different people need different things to be able to access the pool of emotional openness needed for that honesty. Whether you are a Stanislavsky Savant or a master of “The Method”, the constant truth of acting is trueness in the emotion, in the scene, in the character. To find this trueness, one needs to find what way the character fits into their personal process and method.
I know actors that give tear-jerking performances after light skimming of the words, and actors that discover honesty in the words after in-depth textual analysis and a breakdown of the scene through bookwork. Neither of these actors are better than the other; they both are simply using different processes to open their portrayal of the characters to the audience.
For myself, I always thought that my need for bookwork was a weakness… that the actor that needs to put more effort into the book is not as effective as an actor that just releases their emotion to the world with ease, but that isn’t the case. If it gets you where you need to be as a performer, bookwork is a fantastic tool.
Now, one of my favourite things to do when getting new characters is the bookwork, whether it is necessary or not. It helps me find the person in the character and that person is what I can bring to the stage or screen or radio or wherever I find myself as an artist. What the audience receives is the most important part of the job of an actor. How the actor gets there is the process.
A lot of the words are interchangeable: process, method, technique; they all, in essence, mean the same thing. What we need to remember as actors, is that all the feeling, and working and connecting is done to bring ourselves and the character together. Whether that is done by being the character or being yourself and knowing how to inflect delivery to get the desired sound and physicality.
The best thing is what works for the individual. An actor’s method cannot be dogma. Through my own training, I picked and chose pieces from each of the famous methods we studied until I discovered what brought me emotional trueness as a performer. Doing this not only helped me find my own truth as an actor, but I also discovered personal growth as a human being.
Care to be my next guest blogger? I’d sure like to have you on! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance…