Click here for alittle tidbit fromSir Ian McKellan! What is Acting? Acting has changed dramatically over the years, and even today there are many different ways to approach creating a role.
Diderot’s “Paradox of the Actor” Behaving truthfully in artificial conditions Diderot was a very smart French dude who pointed out what’s so difficult about being an actor: the fact that you have to spend your time believing in things that are fictional. Of course, you also have to be aware that they are fictional. Because people who genuinely can’t tell the difference between truth and fiction are generally what we like to call insane.Acting is the art of living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.
Acting is about telling the truth… Lots of people think that being a good actor makes you a really good liar. I disagree. I think the best actors are the ones who know how to tell the truth. Of course, again, they have to walk that fine line where they treat fiction like truth, but don’t fall into believing it completely. But not the whole truth…
What is “Good” Acting?It’s pretty safe to say that there are actors we consider good and actors we consider not so good. So what makes someone a good actor?
Take Gary Oldman for example. He is one of those actors who I almost neverrecognize until I see his name in the credits. He transforms for each role based on the given circumstances.
Do you buy what you hear/seeTrying to figure out how to define good acting is very subjective. Looking at great acting from 50 years ago shows how tastes change.The major thing you need to look for is, based on the planet that has been created for this play, DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE AND HEAR?
Performing vs. ActingWe talked about this earlier in the semester – remember that the difference between performing and acting is that actorsare portraying someone other than themselves. So the actual US Olympic hockey team was performing, while the actors who played them in the movie Miracle were acting: theoutcome of the game was already determined, the names on the back of the jerseys were not their real names.
Performing vs. Acting Remember, there’s also a difference between a “personality” and a character. On his cooking show, Emeril is just Emeril, but he’s the TV version of himself (I hope… I mean… that would be a tough guy to live with). It’s the same way that you behave differently based on whether you’re speaking to your grandmother or your significant other. But actors are not being a version of themselves, they are being someone else.
Presentational Acting• Outside In – Actors building on their physical characteristics first – so maybe the want to rehearse in the shoes they’ll be wearing, or use a false nose or something to make them feel different, then the emotions grow out of how they feel
Outside InClick on each picture to hear these two crazy talented actors talk about some of the physical preparation they have undergone in working on a character. You’ll see that, like anything else, this technique can be hit or miss.
Representational Acting• Inside Out – Acting that builds first from the imagination and then uses the mental ideas that the actor has created to shape the movements and physical life of the character
Realistic Acting• At the beginning of the 20th century there was a big push in literature to write realistically – and theatre wanted to keep up with novels by being as detailed and realistic as possible. – Playwrights: Henrik Ibsen (“father of realism”), August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov – Konstantin Stanislavski at the Moscow Art Theatre (more on him in a few slides) developed systems and exercises to help actors behave more truthfully in their given circumstances
Acting Through History• Greece – Masked – No women – Chorus – Loud voices and big gestures – Part of a religious rite – They were not professional actors – just regular townspeople who were selected to participate as part of their civic duty (kind of like jury duty)
Acting Through History• Medieval – Improvisation – they had general outlines or “scenarios,” but not always full scripts, so the actors might make up a lot of what was said on the spot – Actors tended to play one kind of stock character: so there was the guy who was always the young lover and the guy who was always the old man, etc. – Physical comedy – Tricks like juggling and puppetry – Women were involved in travelling troupes, though probably not in the religious town dramas – Travelling troupes were professional actors, but those who participated in religious dramas would have been normal townspeople like the Greeks
Acting Through History• Elizabethan – Only men – Professional actors – Good memory • These actors would have 10-20 plays in their heads at any given time and had to be ready with them whenever the theatre decided what was in demand – Got “sides” instead of full scripts • There was no easy way to print multiple copies, so rather than giving all the actors full versions of the script, they would get just their lines and their cue lines (the lines right before theirs) – Actors were often famous for one particular kind of character (clowns, kings, women, etc.)
Acting through History• 17th - 19th century – Presentational – a lot of elaborate gestures, not concerned with “truthfulness” or “realism” – Teapot acting • Acting was very formal, it was common for star actors to stand downstage center - one hand on his hip - the other hand bent and raised, and proclaim the lines… do the pose… no really… do it… and you’ll see that you’re a little teapot! – Claptrap • Audiences and actors alike were very interested in big stars. When a big star would deliver a great speech, he might get a big standing ovation, then he would do the speech again, get another ovation, and so on. This is where we get the term “claptrap” – Women starting to be allowed onstage – Skilled at elocution – lots of rules for how to speak well – Skilled at poses – lots of rules for specific poses that would illustrate specific emotions
I told you we’d talk more about him… and this won’t be the last time! He developed aseries of ideas and tools Konstantin Stanislavsky to help actors work on their craft.• Given Circumstances – basic facts that define the world of the play – conditions of place, period, social level, and so on• Motivation – what’s the motivation behind the action? What is making the character do something and how does that action get the character closer to the goal.• Action – what you are doing to another to get what you want• Objective – a character’s goal within a beat or scene• Obstacle – a barrier, difficulty, something preventing the reaching of an objective.• Super-Objective – Life goal of the character• Beat – Russian mispronunciation indicating a section of a scene (when Stanislavski said “bit” it sounded like “beat” and we ran with it) with a single action or smallest unit of action to be played involving a single thought or emotion• Magic If – An imagination tool that urges the actor to ask him/herself the question, “IF I were in the circumstances of this character, how would I act?”
The Method• The Group Theatre – Lee Strasberg – Harold Clurman – Cheryl Crawford When Stanislavski’s ideas were brought to America, they were reinterpreted by Lee Strasberg and shaped into something called “The Method.” Method acting involves having the actor use his/her own memories to get in the appropriate emotional state for the role (emotional recall). A lot of people agree that this can be emotionally dangerous, since it doesn’t give us a chance to heal from emotional trauma if we keep dredging it up all the time. Stanislavski, on the other hand, was more interested in IMAGINATION.
Other Acting MethodsEven though Lee Strasberg called his approach “The Method,” there are plenty of other methods used by actors all over the world.• Sanford Meisner broke off from the Group Theatre and created a system based on keeping actors in the moment.• Laban was a choreographer who developed a movement vocabulary to help actors discover the physical life of their characters.• Tadashi Suzuki developed a rigorous physical training regimen that emphasizes complete control over the body and consciousness• Viewpoints is a physical training system developed by Mary Overlie and Anne Bogart based on how bodies move in space in relation to each other• Biomechanics is a system that was developed by Vsevelod Meyerhold to help actors get appropriate responses from the audience whether the actor is truly experiencing the emotions or not.
Training for Actors• Physical – Movement/Dance – Relaxation – Vocal Training• Mental – Concentration/Discipline – Imagination Believe it or not, actors don’t just get a job, get a script, and get famous. There is a great deal of training that goes into the theatre. As an actor, your whole body is your instrument, and you have to be constantly working to make sure that you can control it.
The Actor’s Life for Me!• Auditions• Headshots• Ongoing training• AEA (Actor’s Equity Here is a sampling Association) of some• AFTRA (Association headshots of Film, Television and Radio Actors)• SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild) – FYI – SAG and AFTRA are in the process of combining
Auditions - How Actors Get Hired• Multiple forms – Cattle Call – Prepared Monologues – Cold Readings• Multiple times Unlike other jobs, actors have to get a new job every time a show closes, so they are constantly auditioning. Auditions – Call Backs come in many different forms. Cattle Call auditions are huge open calls where hundreds of people show up. Some• A weird type of job auditions require the actors to prepare a monologue, others might provide something on the spot that they will have to read (cold reading). Directors then narrow down the pool and interview… invite some of the actors back for callbacks. At any given time, about 90% of the members of the professional actors’ union (Actor’s Equity) are unemployed. It’s a tough business.
Am I on?• What do actors need to do to prepare for a role? Congratulations! You got the part! So now you – Highlighting Lines have to start working on your script! You highlight your lines (even the big famous movie stars do this), make sure you understand your – Script Analysis character’s role within the play, do some character research, and prepare some ideas and • What do they do? questions to ask the director when you get into rehearsal. • What do they say? • What do others say about them? – Research Click here for a little • Laura Linney tidbit from Laura Linney!
Rehearsals• Table Work• Run-Through• Technical Rehearsal• Dress Rehearsal• Previews The first few days of rehearsal the cast and director sit around a table reading and working through the script to get everyone on the same page. This is• Opening Night! called “table actors get blocking (movement around the stage) asus. During rehearsal, work,” and it’s another thing that Stanislavski gave well as direction about their emotional and intellectual approaches to the character. Run-throughs are when they run the entire play from start to finish. This happens more and more as rehearsals move along. Technical rehearsal is the first time the actors get a chance to work with the lighting and sound effects. At dress rehearsal they add in the costumes on top of everything else. Previews are performances that are opened up to a select audience before the official opening date, and then… it’s opening night!
Rehearsals and actors and directors and plays come in infinite varieties, but in the end, convincing acting boils down to one central skill…
Acting for Stage/Acting for Film• What’s the difference? Some actors are able to transition between the worlds of film and theatre fairly easily, while some – Live audience/camera are only truly good at one or the other. The fact is, while the skill of imagination is incorporated in – Each performance all kinds of acting, there are a lot of other factors that make the skills involved very different. counts/choose the best performance in editing – Scenes performed in order/scenes filmed in whatever order they like – Have to be heard and understood in the very last row/have to be heard and understood by the microphone right above their head
Improvisation Not all acting comes from a script. There are some people who have made very successful careers out of making things up on the spot! But even thought it may look a little chaotic, improv works on a set of rules and structures that help actors to create interesting stories and characters in the moment. (And PS – there are lots of people who are way better at this than the guys on Whose Line is it Anyway… they’re just recognizable) 33
Basic Rules of Improvisation• Say “yes, and” – In improv, you always have to say yes to any offer. If your scene partner tells you there’s an elephant over there, and you say there isn’t, there’s nowhere to go! So just agree, then build on it!• One offer at a time – In improv, each line or physical movement is called an “offer.” And it works a lot better if you keep offers simple. If you say too many things, your partner has a hard time deciding what to respond to.• Don’t block – In scripted acting, “blocking” is the movement of the actors around the stage. In improv, “blocking” means refusing someone else’s offer. Maybe you had a better idea. Tough. Don’t judge your partners, just go with the flow!• Avoid asking questions - unless you’re also adding information. – Questions put all the responsibility on your partner. If you just say, “where have you been?” you haven’t added anything to the scene. However, if you say, “Honey, did you pick up the car from the mechanic?” then we’ve learned all sorts of stuff!• Play in the present and use the moment – Don’t plan too far down the line! Just respond to the most recent thing that has been said, and don’t second guess yourself. Good improvisers learn to say the first thing that comes to mind.• CROWW – In building a scene, make sure to establish Character, Relationship, Objective, Where/When• Be specific and provide colorful details. – This doesn’t mean always be outlandish or dirty. It just means create an interesting world to play in!