This week, I’d like to share with you the other great lesson he taught.
I don’t think it’s any secret that actors can be self-absorbed. With our artwork coming through our bodies, minds, and hearts—and no separate creation to point to—it’s easy to end up far too focused on ourselves: “How do I look? How do I sound? Am I any good?” Those questions and the ever deadly, “How do I feel?” can plague us, wedging us away from any truthful moments we might find.
Faced with a bunch of college students—their minds wrapped tightly around their own egos—Jim would gently set himself against our selfish “look at me” natures. He brought us, slowly but surely, into a state of cultured generosity. We did exercise after exercise focused on each other. We saved each other from burning buildings, escaped terrible prison camps, and encountered each other’s imaginary needs in all kinds of scenarios. We did very little traditional acting training, but the work, surprisingly, made us better actors. Once we could truly put our focus on each other, we were able to connect.
Even without a guide like Jim, simple acts of generosity toward other actors, at auditions or in a scene, can make a big difference. With your attention on the other actor’s needs, you can begin to untangle yourself from your own. You can give, you can listen, and you can truly play the moment.
Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.