Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A brief introduction to acting

A short four weeks ago I met a new group of 15 people in a room in central London. We closed our eyes and crawled over each other on the floor.

That was day one of acting school, which culminated on Sunday with a run of our one-act plays in front of a live studio audience. I loved the experience and hope to scribble some thoughts here.

A key thing for me was that as an actor one must be aware of one's body. It's easy to acknowledge this intellectually, but it takes a simple exercise and mere seconds to show most people that they have remarkably little idea what their body is doing at any given moment, myself included.

You stand up straight, assertive, looking straight at people's eyes. But you're fidgeting with your hands.

You attempt 'unsure' and move slowly, relax your body, look down - but you come across as cocky, confident, couldn't-care-less.

This is a problem for an actor, though the start of learning a skill that will pay royally in acting and otherwise.

In an exchange with someone, look at their eyes, look away, look back, look away and refuse to look back. You've lowered your status, marked yourself as submissive, if only for a moment. With two brief movements of your eyes.

Think how many muscles and moves the body is capable of. Each scratch, wiggle of an eyebrow, blink, intake of breath the audience searches through for meaning (so long as you've given them a reason to).

So in one interaction between two characters you have hundreds of these factors to deal with, bodily signals to align to your ends. In a scene, thousands. In an act, millions. In a play, multiply, multiply.

You can't script and control these individually, so you must trust 99% of them to your unconscious. So you try to really feel what's going on for your character. You are your character, you are your body, your body is your character.

When it stops, the scene over, more than once this has left me dazed and confused, emotional, delirious.

Who am I?

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