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Backstage Experts

Why Actors Need to Stay In the Moment

Why Actors Need to Stay In the Moment

The famous declaration made by Heraclitus, “The only constant in life is change” is true of both external and internal circumstances. Like the weather, the tides, and advancing technology, life changes day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. We are also in the same state of constant change. Cells in your body are dying and regenerating every second, and within a seven-year period, the majority of the cells now in your body will have regenerated. Our bodies exist in a moment-to-moment rhythm of death and renewal and change doesn’t get more constant than that!

Your emotional life is just as fluid—sometimes in a big way, and sometimes in a subtle way. The connection that you have to the various emotions you experience will shift. You are not emotionally the same person as you were yesterday.

This fact can create problems in the work of actors who don’t recognize the ever-changing nature of their emotional landscape.

I have had many successful, working actors come to me for help over the years. The main reason is that they seem to have hit a wall. They will sometimes say things like, “I used to be good” or “I think I might have lost my talent!” All of a sudden the bookings have stopped and their auditions, which once were confident and dynamic, now feel disconnected and flat. While there can be a number of causes, one of the main culprits is usually the fact that they’re out-of-touch with their own personality.

When you’re not clear about what qualities are resonating the most strongly for you in the present, you tend to reach back and try to connect with the qualities that got you your last callback or that booked you your last job. After all they worked didn’t they? Yes, they worked then. But what about today?

We don’t necessarily pull a Jekyll and Hyde and completely change who we are, but the qualities in the forefront of our personalities shift due to the circumstances of our lives and our reactions to those circumstances. And even the qualities that stay around may have a different meaning or feeling than they did in the past. I had a student recently who had just gone through a tough divorce. She was frustrated with her work because she couldn’t access the lighter more joyful parts of her personality in the same way she was used to doing. Joy was less carefree, passion was darker and vulnerability carried more fear. That’s fine—it’s what she has to work with in the present moment. Any effort to recapture the lighter more whimsical energy of those choices would be fruitless and false as she is not connected to that energy in the here and now.

You need to be constantly aware of your emotional life and stay up to date with what is available for you to use in your work. There are several ways to so this. An easy one is to go over older material—either audition sides or roles you’ve performed. Look at the choices you made the first time you made them and then ask yourself what decisions you would make if you were doing the piece now. Note the differences in the actual choices and if you decide you would keep some of the same choices. Note the differences in the color of those choices and the way that you connect to them now. When you get a new piece of material, you’ll be more aware that you don’t make your creative decisions from your memory bank, but from the information your mind and heart are providing you in this moment.

There’s nothing like a little time and a little life to show us that what we thought was solid and permanent in ourselves is actually porous and ever changing. Next time you feel stuck in your work and unable to connect to what worked so well for you in the past, rest assured that you haven’t “lost your talent.” You simply need to spend some quality time with yourself. Do an emotional update and discover what is resonating most strongly in you right here, right now.

Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”

Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit

You can follow Craig on Twitter @craigteach and like him on Facebook.

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