One of my biggest challenges as a teacher is to stop actors from showing me their training, displaying how “good” they are. Training can become not a foundation but a way of “doing it right.” Without even realizing it, actors end up trapped in some kind of prefab style. Yes, they’re doing what they’ve been told, sometimes beautifully so, but they’ve sacrificed their spontaneity, their quirkiness—everything that made them interesting in the first place. What’s left is formal, appropriate, solidly “good” work. Often, “good” work is boring.
You’re an actor. You are the voice of the human experience, and the human experience is a big mess. You must be willing to throw yourself in, unprotected by your training and preconceived notions. Be not only willing to make mistakes but eager to screw up. Some of the most exciting acting choices I’ve ever seen have been all wrong—wrong for the script, wrong for the venue, incorrect according to any respectable list of acting dos and don’ts—and that’s what made them so compelling, rich, human.
I do believe acting is an art, and one must train to reach its highest highs—I’m an acting teacher after all—but letting training overtake acting is like focusing on individual letters while trying to read. Your training is your parachute. Put it on and jump.
Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University, where she is currently directing “Marisol” by Jose Rivera.