There are certain issues that seem to rear their heads on a rather consistent basis with most actors. These are very easily identifiable—even by actors who suffer from them themselves—when watching other actors in classes or performing. Here are four issues you should address so you can give a great performance.
The first acting issue that legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg primarily focused on is relaxation. A tense actor is self-conscious, isolated, and unavailable for full immersion into the imaginary world. American method acting—which includes the techniques of Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, and Stella Adler—requires the engagement of an actor’s emotional life. This engagement demands full relaxation to allow for the easy, unselfconscious flow of emotion. Many actors make the mistake of confusing muscular tension for being alive in the imaginary world and are surprised to see that once they relax their muscles they actually have little or no emotion. To act with deep and full aliveness means an actor still has deep feeling present, even with full relaxation of muscles in the face and body.
2. Speaking Text
Another very common obstacle to great performances is the confusion that simply speaking the script in a natural way is acting when in reality it’s nothing more than being a talking head. This is true even if the actor speaks the words and also has emotion. Talking the words or yelling or crying isn’t acting. In defining acting, Meisner said, “acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” This is very different than saying things. Actors often confuse saying the words with doing things to create the vivid, alive behavior which is acting. The text should only be spoken in a manner that emanates from what the actor is doing. If a character is flirting, defying authority, sharing a secret, or any of the many things people do behaviorally in life that are represented imaginatively when acting, the words and the way they are spoken must come out of the behavior and action. Actors often confuse words and the way they are said as acting. This greatly interferes with clear and affecting acting performances.
3. Vocal Development
Another obstacle in having a great performance is the underdeveloped voice. Even the most powerful actor will be unable to deliver their performance potential with substantial limitations on the tone and articulation of their words and voice. A gifted actor giving a behaviorally clear acting performance must still be heard and fully understood. An emotional actor who becomes shrill or unintelligible when raising their voice or crying simply cannot have the best performance.
4. Lack of Variety
Finally, a lack of variety is an obstacle to a great performance by making it one-noted and linear. The variety of things an actor does is like a song that, rather than staying on one note, has many colors and is scored with highs and lows. Scoring an acting role must, like a song, capture the variances that make a performance engaging, surprising, and more truthful.
The elements of relaxation, creating behavior versus just speaking text, developing the voice and speech, and having variety are all key to achieving clear, affecting, and engaging performances. Give these points your attention and add others while you discover them in your exciting journey as artists developing your technique and instruments!
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