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Five Tips for Actors and Singers
by Jason Bennett, 5/12/10
1. At the core of all of us is vulnerability. We may not feel it or consciously know about it. But, vulnerability drives everything we do. All action impulses we have are an attempt to get our needs met so we feel less vulnerable. They are power moves. All power moves compensate for vulnerability.
In acting, identify the character's vulnerabilities, or your performance will fail. Then, you need a process for truly accessing the energies -- the vulnerabilities...and the power archetypes that compensate for them and drive the action. We work on that in our acting classes. A power move, compensating for underlying vulnerability, is what causes you to "do" when you act. It is the cause of all action in acting and in life. "Doing" without experiencing the myriad energies is lifeless indicating.
2. Internal struggle, as the character, is as important as the struggle with the other characters. You can think of it as having opposite "voices" within you. Our personality is comprised of many parts, or subpersonalities and archetypes.
So, as the character (or in life), one part of you might want an abortion and another part of you might be religious and think that's murdering a child. And still another part of you might be a lonely part and long for a child! But, another inner critic part of you thinks you're unfit to be a parent because you are lazy and selfish.
These are archetypes and subpersonalities. Great actors and singers create many aspects, or subparts, of every character they play. And you can learn how to truly create aspects of characters in this way, using your imagination. And you can learn to access them in your acting using the Archetype Work we use in our school.
3. Go to the amazing New York Public Library of Theater and Film on Tape at Lincoln Center. You can make a reservation and watch most Broadway and Off-Broadway theater on tape from the last 30 years, the original casts. It is a wonderful resource and you can learn so much about acting and the theater from doing this. I watched both parts of "Angels in America" twice it was so inspiring. Even the original "A Chorus Line" is there. By the way, you have to be "researching" to watch it. They will not let you use the library if it isn't for research purposes. You can learn about it at http://www.nypl.org/locations/lpa/theatre-film-and-tape-archive
4. A few days ago I was working on my acting in the Subway: You can do this in your car, on a bus, in a park, in a restaurant, anywhere... It's useful to do it in the presence of people, even though they don't know what you are doing.
Begin by listening to some intense music. I was listening to deeply spiritual music and it evoked an ancient Archetype -- eons of years old -- it was mind-altering. It seemed beyond human. I intensified it. I felt as though I could feel the entirety of earth's history, of human history. I imagined playing Kings, Warlords, CIA agents, peasants, slaves and aborigines - being Dick Cheney, being Hitler, being Ghandi, being the Buddha.
It was fascinating to experience how my thoughts, feelings and fantasies would completely shift when I would access a different character/archetype. I imagined how I would move and speak differently from energy to energy. I would try it out a bit in ways that weren't obvious to people around me. It is so much fun to cultivate this ability and it's key to great acting.
5. You cannot be too smart to be an actor. One of the traditional criticisms in acting classes is, "You are in your head." This is often called being "not truthful" or "not real" by acting teachers. But all your impulses are real, always. And you are always communicating something "truthful" for where you are in that moment, whether it's unemotional or rational or manipulative. It's where you are, for "real!" Never forget that, because it's liberating for many performers to shift to this way of thinking. I've worked with countless actors terrorized by the thought they are not being "real," "truthful," or that they're in their "head." (Where else would you be, on Jupiter???)
The phrase "in your head" generally refers to an actor "acting" with too much rational or conceptual archetypal energy controlling them. One trap of this old-fashioned phrase is that you conclude thinking while you act is bad. It isn't. You are allowed to think when you act. The key is telling the story the writers want you to. Great story-telling is dimensional! There are many, many colors that must appear unpredictably to the audience, and sometimes even to the actor.
It's ok if the part of you that is rational is present when you act. But it must be balanced, or even trumped, by other parts of you, other kinds of energy. Great acting can be rational, for sure, but it almost always must have other energies present, too: all kinds of vulnerability, sexuality, impulsivity, chaos, joy, evil and on and on. There are hundreds of energies great actors paint with while performing. You must cultivate genuine access to these unique and intense ways of being. It is fundamental work for any performer (or great communicator). And you can learn to access these energies in great acting and singing classes.
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