Suzanne brought in an audition scene for a role she didn’t book. After her scene she explained, “All the script said was she was distraught. I just showed you what I did. I didn’t know what they wanted.” To which I replied, “I would think they wanted to see your take on being distraught. The problem is not what they wanted or the script. The problem is your lack of acting adventure.“
The urge to be an adventurer exists within every actor. This urge fights for your approval against the obedient actor you think you are compelled to be. Actors are born to be free yet they become obliged to make cages for themselves made up of dos and don’ts, fears and comfort.
If Suzanne had exercised the adventurous actor, she would have freed herself to uncover a personal way to be upset that was unique to her. But she stayed in her caged comfort zone of doing what the script indicated. She didn’t find her way of telling the character story.
You were born to adventure. Babies are adventurous because they explore. For example, they try to stand and fail and try again and again, failing many times but never stop trying. Babies try to stand because something drives them. Likewise, you will grow as an actor by adventuring, failing, and going at it again.
Good acting is a quest, not a choice. Its what you have to do, no matter your feelings or the chorus of voices in your head telling you what you are about to do is wrong.
Bring a personal idea or impulse to a character and be willing to fail, and then try again and again. Who knows, that choice you thought was weird turns out to help you book an audition.
As I explained to Suzanne, try something and see what results. If you read the script as prose some idea must have occurred to you that you dismissed because it wasn’t in the script or because it wasn’t “right.” Be willing to fail and unwilling to be safe especially in a workshop.
The script is not your cage but the stimulus that excites your thoughts, ideas, quirks, and imagination. The script is a call for you to seek out your inner world ideas, feelings and instincts.
Risk giving your unexpected version of some emotional event. Let your reactions, especially those that others might disapprove of, be part of your character story. Seek out what is awkward for you to do and do it.
Get out of your cage.
I’m often asked what can be done between classes to work on my acting. My answer always includes, become an adventurer. Amaze yourself by being bold. Write a scene of a story that scares you. Present a character in a scene with conflicting emotion and/or behavior. Let what seems daring to you guide you. Follow your impulses. Tell the character story in a way that shocks you. But always tell the character story.
Start looking at your next script and your choices with new and adventurous eyes. You know what you really think and hold dear. Write that story then do it in your class. Explore actions as basic as coming up with a unique way to enter or exit the scene that tells the character story.
I ended my critique to Suzanne with, “What you presented in the audition and here tonight, didn’t reveal your impression of a distraught young woman. You didn’t risk getting into what 'distraught' means to you. You didn’t explore all the personal options that you keep caged up. A real acting adventurer takes the audience to those places that hold your real feelings.”
Bill Howey has been an acting teacher and coach for 30 years. Many of his clients have gone onto successful careers in the business. He conducts scene study workshops and offers private acting coaching at his studio in Burbank, California. He began his professional acting career at the Cleveland Play House. He also appeared on television and in film. Bill produced live TV in Australia and has produced and directed independent films. His book, The Actor’s Menu is available on Amazon.com. For more information, visit to www.billhowey.com.