We’re all not just trying to become better actors, we’re trying to become better people. (And when I say “better” I am not implying there’s anything flawed or messed up or wrong with you as you are now. The potential of who each of us is – the tiny seed of love and compassion and possibility that dwells within us all – already is perfection.)
But life has this interesting transformational principle, that evokes our hard edges – our places of discomfort and resistance; impatience and places we get stuck – to try to work through these areas to make us better.
There’s really nothing more substantive than acting to assist us in this process, because acting is life.
I have always felt that actors have this innate connection to the deeper mysteries of life. There is a willingness to explore and go to places that, a banker, perhaps, may not be inclined. As seekers, risk-takers, and storytellers reflecting back to humanity what it means to be human, actors sort of have to.
And part of that is also about being more conscious. Thankfully, we’re beginning to quash this age-old myth that says we have to be “messed up” or damaged or bat-shit crazy to do our best work.
No we don’t.
Actually, science has disproved that myth. Our best work as creators comes when we’re whole and healed and empathetic and mindful.
Dysfunction doesn’t create dynamic performance. Or rather, it can, but what’s the point if you end up destroying yourself in the process?
So I often get asked, “Since we’re becoming more mindful in our lives, how does that affect our acting?”
The more we become awake to what we’re actually feeling, the more we can actually use that feeling in real ways in our work.
The point of the work is that we will get triggered, because situations we find ourselves in as different characters are going to evoke our stuff. And lots of it. When we get triggered, we want to allow ourselves to have visceral, unedited, instinctual reactions. Reactions that sometimes we’re trying to be more mindful of not having in life.
This may seem at first defeating of purpose; counterintuitive. But it isn’t. So you’re at the bank and you’re about to go bananas because the bank tellers are moving at a glacial pace and you’re already late for an appointment. But instead you breathe and become aware of your tension and impulse to yell at the woman behind the counter.
The only way we can start to work with feeling in our work is to know what it is and how we try to get around it in life.
This is mindfulness. Not just in our life, but also what we begin to emotionally wield, then, with more dexterity as actors.
When I was in my early 20’s, I didn’t even know what feelings were or what to do with them, so the journey of unraveling it all is what helps us in technique to use feelings to tell story. That’s what technique is about.
So get triggered in your work. Don’t put a stopper on it. Explore, get messy, get weird and wild. Have fun and play. And in life, try to observe when what you may mindlessly say could hurt another person deeply.
There are no take-backs in life. But there is consciousness. Awareness. And learning how to choose a different path when the paths previously taken bring you (and others) nothing but heartache and pain.
As I’m always telling my students, “Save the drama for the stage!”