January 14th, 2013 18:46 EST
How to Master The Craft of Acting
My beautiful and remarkable acting coach, the actress Lenore Harris, who was trained by Paul Mann, always told me that: " The craft of acting is believing in the life and death circumstances of the play. The circumstances are the situation, the story. It is not your own life, but you have to imagine them as if they were your own life. Your own life meaning your character `s life. Reading the script over and over and then over and over again stimulates and activates your imagination and analysis in ways that go beyond the ordinary or everyday acceptance of the word as it is written on the page of the script.
At the same time the training you have had- if it is deep- has been stimulating and stirring in you all of the life that you have lived before and are living now. Life that you have been observing, reading about through books, newspapers, films, museums, travel, television, in relationships and human inter-actions. The in-depth part of developing the skills of discipline, concentration and imagination is an extraordinary road to the development of your humanity and therefore your talent.
This is where technique comes in. Technique cannot give you talent or a soul or profound feelings but if it is inside you then it can deepen who you are and develop who you will become, and allow you the unselfconscious freedom to become someone from a life different from your own (your character). Pleasure, danger, discomfort, heartbreak, happiness, anger, violence, compassion, sexuality, and humor, through stories imagined from a healthy mind and physically expressed through a beautiful voice and versatile speech and released in a poised and strong body. The creation that comes from a combination of all of these elements is where greatness and uniqueness of talent lies ."
Lenore also makes the point that there has been a deterioration in the quality of acting instruction. The investment of time, effort and application that was characteristic of the tradition embodied by Stanislavsky and the Group Theater has given way to a misplaced emphasis on political correctness and giving in to the stressors created by financial considerations.
Another important concept to be maintained by the actor is to stay within character. The character maybe ridiculous or evil but the character does not regard herself as ridiculous or evil. The character takes herself seriously and thinks that her actions or views are justified. The actor must project this self-justification and let the audience react in the appropriate way- with laughter, fear, etc...
Another factor that is important is to adapt the style of acting that you use to the nature of the particular work in which you are appearing. It makes no sense to be subtle and understated in a broad farce; on the other hand, one doesn`t want to overdo it in a sophisticated light comedy of manners. The style of acting that is used should be appropriate to the nature of the work as a whole. (e.g., Cary Grant`s much criticized performance in the film version of " Arsenic and Old Lace", a daring, flamboyant approach that fits with the broadness of the material).
I think it is important for a beginning actor to study with a person who is well trained in the classics. This creates a strong foundation. It is fine after that to experiment with more off beat and avant garde material. Once you get that foundation, it never leaves you.
In addition, since I have been fortunate enough to have been able to study at The Isadora Duncan International Institute for over a decade and a half with Dr. Jeanne Bresciani, I have also learned that the value of the dance theories of Isadora Duncan to the working actor has to do with a renewed emphasis on the elements of life.
For Duncan, fundamental natural elements are symbolic of mental processes - earth is equated with sensing; the air with thinking; fire with intuition; and water with feeling. Much of this is rooted in the theater of the ancient Greeks.
By Actress Tiffany Rothman
Judyth Piazza interviews Actress Tiffany Rothman on The American Perspective