A Hidden Acting Agenda is a new term to describe an old phenomenon. These agendas - formed when you, the actor - hide some behavior, attitude or trait because they were the source of criticism or embarrassment in the past.
Let’s say that you were told that “you cry too much and it’s annoying.” So you decide to avoid crying because crying is bad. This decision becomes a Hidden Acting Agenda that subsequently changes every character choice you make.
There may be a list of behaviors or physical traits that others might have disapproved of, such as: talking too loudly, talking too softly, making too many faces, a too even temper, weird-looking eyes, and so on.
Or, you might have come to the conclusion, all by yourself, that you have a specific flaw. Such as telling yourself you can’t do comedy because no one laughs at your jokes.
Hiding traits you feel (or have been convinced) are "wrong" guarantees that your character will not be as complete or as interesting as possible. You may feel safer by avoiding a sensitive area, but the character you portray will be weaker without your hidden vulnerabilities.
Hidden Acting Agendas prevent you from fully discovering your full potential. This is because every character will be missing these “undesirable traits” that make you unique. But you will never know the effect your Hidden Acting Agendas could have if you avoid confronting the discomfort of revealing your “flaws” by thought or deed.
You must think like an adventurer and risk exploring each and every “flaw,” whether it came from someone else or from inside yourself. Adventuring into and uncovering your Hidden Acting Agenda is essential to developing your acting to the highest level possible.
The rewards for exposing your Hidden Acting Agenda can be enormous. Once you stop hiding those traits, your acting can blossom in unexpected ways. Connecting with, and then developing what you may consider your flaws are life giving to characters. Your unique qualities are what differentiate you from other actors.
You arouse feelings in an audience, a casting director, or anyone because you are tapping in to the parts of yourself that you have kept hidden. These flaws resonate with an audience when you allow them to exist as part of your character presentation. When we see an actor reveal herself and allow us to observe what we sense to be an imperfection, we are moved.
Interestingly, your faults and shortcoming can often become the most affecting elements of your acting. The best acting ingredients are always personal and real, and they should be used as the tools they are, not hidden away.
So take some time, be honest with yourself, and write down your Hidden Acting Agenda(s). This will give you a map for this adventure. As you explore those traits, bringing them out of the shadows, you will find yourself growing as an actor.
Bill Howey teaches “Scene Study with Emphasis on Auditioning.” He began a professional acting career at the Cleveland Playhouse. He moved on to
television, film production, produced and directed independent films and worked as a dialog coach for TV shows.