Yes, Therapy Can Make You a Better Actor

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The importance of self-examination, reflection, introspection, and self-awareness for an actor cannot be underestimated. Many people walk through life without being clear about who they really are, what their motivations are, and how they feel on the deepest level.

Many people are unconscious. But an actor cannot afford to have the luxury of being in a sleepwalking state; an actor must wake up to both the pain and the possibility of transformation in their lives. An actor who must analyze a script and understand the motivations and behaviors of a deeply human, three-dimensional, character will have some challenges doing so if they truly do not know who they are themselves.

So one of the most important things that an actor can do is to look at themselves in the deepest analytic way, much the same as if they were a character in a play. An individual who goes to a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist will present certain behaviors and the expert will listen carefully and analyze what the overall psychological components of the individual’s identity are.

A person who goes to a therapist who has a self-sabotage or failure syndrome may discover only after deep exploration that subtle hints were given in their family that they should not succeed over a sibling who might’ve had an impairment. That individual might go to auditions and experience anxiety when they see competition in the waiting room and then feel guilty when they book the job. They may not understand why the audition process is something that is an obstacle for them in creating a career until they look deeply and analytically at their behavior and it is explained by an expert’s analysis.

Therapy can free the actor and help them grow, which will then be applied to their approach to their training, professional career, and all their on set relationships. Awareness of self can empower an actor and free them of obstacles in order to help them attain their goals.

READ: Why It’s #time4change When it Comes to the Mental Health of Performers

Another way therapy can help an actor is in the actual understanding of character and script analysis in the creation of their roles. When an actor approaches a script, he must look at what is written and then create the most truthful and interesting human behavior that matches the description. If someone is playing an alcoholc or a pathological liar, one must create the behavior of such a person, leading to an inevitable complement between acting and therapeutic analysis. In therapy, you present the behavior and are then evaluated by the expert as having a specific syndrome. In acting, you are told who the character is by description, relationships, history, and other clues given in the script and then you create the behavior that illuminates and brings that syndrome or personality to life. The two are closely related.

Our Meisner Studio is a place where, in the beginning of the training, students learn to relax into the truth of themselves and then go on to apply that understanding in working on complex characters all the way through to classical work. This approach allows for the self discovery and self actualization that can be the foundation to understanding all people through one’s understanding of self.

Therapy is not for "crazy" people; it is for the courageous artist who needs to come to know them selves in a manner that will inform their art and bring it greater truth.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Author Headshot
Joanne Baron
Joanne Baron is an actor, producer, and the artistic director of the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio in Santa Monica, Calif.
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Author Headshot
D.W. Brown
D.W. Brown is an actor, writer, director, and studio co-owner and head teacher of the Baron Brown Studio in Santa Monica, California. Brown is also the author of the acclaimed acting guide “You Can Act” and a second book, “2500 Years of Wisdom: Sayings of the Great Masters.”
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