Why Cultivating Concentration Is Key to Acting

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Concentration is a fundamental requirement for all good acting. Without concentration, not only is line memorization nearly impossible, but also the capacity to research, rehearse, and perform a role. Concentration is defined as “the action or power of focusing one’s attention or mental effort.” The opposite is being absent and absentminded. Being absent eliminates any possibility of being engaged enough to live through imaginary experiences, which is the very definition of acting.

Living in the imaginary world requires what Stanislavsky called public solitude. This is the art of maintaining privacy while being public. When actors live through an imaginative event knowing an audience is watching, it requires great concentration to sustain that necessary privacy.

Many things can hinder concentration. This is something that my mentor William Esper addressed when I taught at his studio. He spoke of students’ shorter attention spans and their lack of substantial intimate connection with other people due to the overuse of technology. He saw this as an impediment to an actor’s ability to be present for concentration and connection. Other impediments include anxiety and fear while mature actors may have concerns about remembering lines, stating their age as the culprit of issues with concentration. 

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So how do we ensure at any age that we remain concentrated and capable of living through deep and imaginative experiences without breaking concentration? There are many exercises to enhance concentration. They range from meditation and yoga to brain-training games like “Elevate.” Concentration can also be enhanced by limiting phone use and time with technology, by getting exercise, and making sure you get adequate sleep.

For those with anxiety and fear, therapy, breathing classes, working with partners, and mindfulness work can help. As for those who believe aging is affecting their concentration, it’s true the brain changes over time, but spending more time memorizing can help build confidence and regain competence in your skills. Practicing monologues and taking an acting class can also lead to improvement. 

By improving our concentration, our acting will improve too!

Ready to concentrate? Apply to casting calls on Backstage!

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.

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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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