The Art of Silence

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You know the old proverb “Silence is golden”?

Of all the essential guidance I’ve offered students over many years, trusting the silence remains at the top of the list, and so I commend it to you anew.

As opposed to the dark, foreboding void of nothingness we fear silence to be, a void in which we stand naked, lose our way, fumble, and fail, in truth, silence provides a world of possibility to learn who we are as storytellers.

In the silence we are truly seen. In the silence we glimpse who we truly are. In the silence who we are reveals itself.

But we do not trust the silence, do we? We rush, we race, we push, ever determined to show our acting moments, to prove we are good/great/amazing, to trump the last 50 people in line—a perfect recipe for failure and the exact result we fear will come in the silence we feverishly work to avoid.

In the stillness of silence are mystery, secrets, and answers. Example: “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

And, this, my friends, is the exact point. In the silence lives concurrently the question and the answer.

The silence allows you to solve the mystery, to learn the secrets, and to answer the questions about you and your characters.

When you trust and honor the silence as a means to access your truth it becomes a great ally that will always serve you both onstage and off.

As an exercise, especially in your rehearsal process, allow yourself the luxury of silence in between the words, phrases, and lines of your monologues, lyrics, and sides. In your exercise, roam around in the silence and let silence embrace you. There are no wrong choices in the silence.

In the silence, allow. Do not be pressured or anxious to rush to the next word, lyric, or line. Allow your innate instincts to live. Linger within the silence. Let it teach you the truth of who you are.

Try it right now. Create your own silence pattern between the words of the first line of Hamlet’s most famous speech. Allow it to take you into the mystery, secrets, and answers awaiting you within both the text and yourself. And, I encourage both men and women to explore this meaty, profound existential speech. See what you learn about it and you.

In the silence your innate wisdom as storytellers, your innate instincts, and your innate emotional, physical, and vocal rhythms await. Trust the silence. Your unencumbered freedom to be lives in the silence. Isn’t this, after all, what we strive for? To be in the moment. Not to show, not to push or force, but simply to be…real, alive, trusting the spontaneity of who we are moment to moment. You’ll find all of this in the silence. Trust it. To your success!

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

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