Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Is Love? (And What does it have to do with Acting?)

The term "acting" seems to have a negative connotation.  The best actors do what all actors want to be able to do: Stay in the moment; deliver powerful performances; wow the audience.  As theater-goers we love to witness it, as actors we train long and hard to learn how to deliver it.

So where does love come in?  When you recognize the actor's job is not to trick or deceive, but rather to engage through honesty, dynamic energy, and vulnerability, then you are getting close to what it means to be a really good actor.  You begin to realize the enormous and challenging responsibility, and the incredible opportunity, of being a truly fine actor.  You start to be able to uncover and define that draw, that compulsion, that drug-like magnetism that is acting.

You still didn't answer my question.

Oh, right: What's love got to do with it?  Several things.

When you are in love—or even when you think you're in love—you put your best foot forward, right?  And when you get more relaxed around the person, you feel free to let down your guard.  Or maybe the thing that hits you over the head like a ton of bricks is when you realize you don't have to put your best foot forward when you are with this person.  Maybe her presence affects you so tremendously you are automatically the best you.  You don't have to try.  She lifts you up and you are just...plugged into each other.

Okay, so that's the first way love is like acting: Your energy is so up and pure that you respond honestly and fully, moment-to-moment, in each other's presence.

The second way love is like acting is the way it focuses you.  She is all you think about.  You don't need food (until you are starving), you don't need sleep (until you are exhausted).  Love seems to charge you up and drain you at the same time; it drives you forward and it can knock you off your feet. 

Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), isn't just about everything you do about love?

This is gold for the actor.  Think about it: Behind virtually every scene in nearly every play—even in the midst of those knock-down drag-out screaming-at-each-other scenes—it all comes down to that one thing.  It's all about love.

So, dear actors, try that the next time you work on that scene, especially one that seems to be about anything except love.  Talk about playing opposites!  In fact, pick one place—one instant when the other actor is not looking at you—when you can let the audience see you thinking I love you so much—then cover it again; shield and protect yourself, and proceed.

Until next time, here's to your empowerment!

—Tom

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