I have this amazing actress in my class named Pamela. She’s featured in my iActing Studio Master Class that’s going to be streaming online beginning May 15th, but more on that later as we get closer to that date. Anyway, something Pamela said last week in class really struck me. She said, “I believe everything I see.”
Believing everything you see as an actor is one of the holy grails of acting… things that are necessary to master to be a master. It’s also the cornerstone of the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief” and the by-product of such acting techniques as Meisner and improvisation.
So how do you get to that state where you’re reacting to everything taken in not only with your eyes but all your senses? There’s only one way I know. Train, train and train some more. Focus on techniques such as improvisation so that you act from a place other than your head. Improvisation forces you to react from your primal instinct, not your higher brain function. No thinking allowed here!
I especially like the Transformation exercise, something I learned in the Groundlings. You start a scene from a movement, like flapping your wings as if you were a duck flying south. You needn’t create a full improvisation who-what-where as the focus is on the movement and whatever subsequent scene can be created from it. Then, anyone in the group (you can do this with two to unlimited participants) can change the movement and transform the scene into another one. For example, someone might transform the ducks into ballet dancers or exercise enthusiasts that also move their arms up and down.
I’ve never been able to think while doing this. You have to retreat to another level of consciousness to instinctively react when someone changes the scene. Once in the Groundlings, my scene partner and I found ourselves inching around a ledge high up on a mountain. I’ve always been afraid of heights and showed it. He instinctively threw me off. It was the only time I’ve been able to end this exercise before Gary Austin, Groundlings founder, yelled “Scene!”
Why don’t you try it with a partner? Like every acting exercise, you have to see it or do it to understand it. My actors will be demonstrating this and other exercises in videos coming soon. Meanwhile, I’ll explain it in greater detail in my next blog.