Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Achieve Honesty in Your Acting

How is it that you can be quite a good actor, and
still be dishonest in performance?

Happens all the time. 

Dishonesty in acting can take several forms, so let me
illustrate.  Then, I'll give you simple and specific steps 

to abolish dishonest acting for good, and forever
enhance the skills you have.

Examples of Generalizing (Dishonesty) in Performance

The most subtle and frequent form of dishonesty
affects the professional actor, as well as the better-
than-average community theatre actor.  This form of
dishonesty is generalizing: playing at a feeling or
emotion instead of BEING AND DOING it. 

Since this is the Very Good Actor we are talking
about in this example, this kind of dishonesty is
not likely to affect the entire performance, but
will crop up in spots.  In other words, many moments
will be quite good, quite well executed; other
moments leave a bit to be desired, but because he's
so good, we tend as audience members to forgive.


The biggest form of dishonesty for the professional
performer engaged in a long run is stale acting; the
life has drained from the performance except for
brief and fleeting instances of "brilliance" that are
elusive and difficult to repeat.


The most prevalent and not-so-subtle form of
dishonesty can be seen largely on non-professional
stages where mostly untrained actors appear, but
certainly rears its ugly head on the professional
stage as well. 

This form of dishonesty occurs when the actor has
either never reached a level of honesty in
performance, or has attained that level in the past,
but has become lazy.

The Remedy for All Forms of Dishonest Acting

You understand, or at least have heard, that HONESTY
and VULNERABILITY are attractive qualities in
performance.  I will go as far as to say both are
crucial to actors.

This is true whether you are performing on stage or
in front of the camera.

This is true whether you are performing in a
production or presenting yourself at an audition.

It is true whether you are presenting yourself at a
job interview.

The ability to engage honesty instantly-- once
accepted and EXPERIENCED -- is very powerful.

Difficult to attain?

That depends on how brave you are in terms of
1) Looking objectively at yourself, and
2) Allowing yourself to be "naked" in front of the

How terrifying would it be if you had to stand in
front of 400 people and reveal the
- Ugliest side of yourself? 
- Worst thing you've ever done? 
- Most thoughtless thing you've ever done?

Okay, relax. That's not going to happen.

** BUT **

            and this is the key

      If you can IMAGINE
      with great detail
      looking into someone's eyes,
      and revealing all that "junk"
      and have them still love you,
      and accept you without judgment...

...then you have the ability to perform with
vulnerability and honesty.

            Read that again, slowly.

Now understand...

I did not say you WILL reveal ANYTHING, but when you
IMAGINE looking into someone's eyes, allowing them
inside to see aaallll of yourself -- your most intimate 

thoughts and darkest secrets... well, that can be a
scary thing, a really terrifying thing to even think
those things while looking into a person's

   PLEASE NOTE: If you try this exercise
  of looking into another person's eyes
  and mentally revealing yourself, instruct
  your partner to look into your eyes while
  thinking, over and over, "I love you, and
  it's all okay."

This is a powerful exercise. 

Doubt me? 

Try it sometime.  Less than 30 seconds of it and you
will be shaken.

Unless, of course, you cannot lower the shield.

Aaaahhhhh, there's the rub.

If that's you, if you cannot drop your guard, I
cannot help you with this simple article.  If your
curiosity is roused, however, then you can take the
simple steps below to improve your acting. 
Today.  Now.

(If you are intrigued and want to talk about this
process with me, send me an email and I'll set up a
free phone session with you and we can discuss.)

Here's how.  Take these ideas and run with them.  Use
this powerful and mind-blowing technique while

  1. Creating a role
  2. Rehearsing
  3. Cold reading
  4. Preparing to audition
  5. Auditioning and interviewing with the casting director
  6. In performance

How to Attain Instant Honesty/Vulnerability

Think, "I love you" while looking into your fellow
actor's eyes. 

The content and context of the scene DOES NOT
MATTER.  Even if your intention is TO HUMILIATE, TO
INSULT, TO FIRE RAGE AT... this will work.  The sex
of the other person does not matter. 

Before any words come out of your mouth -- for just a
moment -- take the chance and LOOK IN THEIR EYES and
think, "I love you."

How About the Audition?

If you're doing a monologue or a song selection for an
audition, you have a focal point, an imaginary person
you are talking or singing to, right?  Then look in
THAT person's eyes. 

Not talking to anyone?  CHANGE IT so that you are
talking to someone.  (It must be a SPECIFIC person you
are talking to, not "just someone.")

Inhale while formulating your response.

Acting is reacting, right?  Even if you are doing a
RESPOND, and you'd better know what that something is. 

If you don't know VERY SPECIFICALLY what prompts you
to begin speaking/singing THOSE PARTICULAR WORDS that
you are to speak/sing, then you have already lost the
audience before you have begun; you have already lost
the role at the audition.

The reason you inhale while formulating your thought --  

your very specific thought that is ultimately expressed
as a specific, active and powerful INTENTION -- is that
it draws focus in a very subtle and dynamic way. It

automatically and subliminally creates expectation.  

This is not a dramatic and sharp inhalation, by the
way.  Just breathe in 


suspend the breath, for at least an instant, at the
top of the inhalation.  Don't hold, cut off or stop
your breath... just suspend the movement of air

through your airway.  This is controlled by your
diaphragm, not your throat.

Give; focus on the other person.

Remember, even at an audition, IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU
It's what you (as your character) WANT in that moment
FROM THE OTHER PERSON.  To get what you want, you
must GIVE to the other person, real or imaginary. This
is expressed as a specific, active and powerful

It's that feeling of throwing the ball to someone,
and not pulling your throwing arm back right away,
but rather suspending your energy even after the
ball has left your hand. 

Picture throwing a ball and leaving your arm in space
for a few seconds before going back to neutral.  Not
JUST holding your arm out there, but suspending and
extending your energy in the direction of your pitch.

Repeat constantly.

If you even ATTEMPT these steps, your awareness will
be raised to a higher degree, and your acting, your
character development, your performance level, will
begin to improve.

Hope this is helpful.

Here's to Your Empowerment!


Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2010 Tom Brooks and
The Empowered Actor Initiative  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Actors Above the Fray

The college or university setting can often seem like 
a Rumor Breeding Ground.  There is every opportunity 
to dish, to eavesdrop, to jab, to tear down...

Although it can get your blood going when you hear that 
so-and-so did something, or did NOT do something, blah, 
blah, blah... challenge yourself to stand above. Notice 
that even though there are some in your class who are 
above or below you in certain skill areas... 

...classmates who don't seem to 'deserve' to be there
...those who don't seem to work as hard as you

...some very talented people who treat you like dirt

...and though you might even encounter acting, voice, 
and dance professors who treat some students unfairly...

Stand above the fray, and recognize the tremendous 
variety of resources around you. And you can learn 
from every one of them.

Unless there is an issue for which you need to stand up, 
best to act as an observer, and focus on what's important. 
You'll have your own built-in daily reality show that be 
very comical most of the time, if you're able to detach 
and survey the behavior.

I was somehow always able to turn a deaf ear to the 
drama that was forever unfolding off stage.  I certainly 
would have gained nothing by being involved, and 
would have lost focus on studying the thing I loved 
best: Acting.

I transferred to Wright State University's Professional
Actor Training Program after my freshman year at 
Hofstra University. The WSU faculty went back and 
forth on whether to accept me as a 1st or 2nd year 
student, but I was accepted as a freshman.

No big reaction on the Gossip Meter there...just 
another transfer student, right?

But I happened to audition for Private Lives within 
a few days of classes starting. Only I didn't realize 
that although freshmen could audition, they could 
not be cast in the 1st quarter production. Knowing 
that would not have changed my audition, anyway. 
It was a long night of call-backs for this 2-male, 2-
female cast show.  I remember hanging around the 
call board until near midnight, awaiting director 
Bruce Matley's decision.  It was the next morning 
when the cast list was posted and I got the role of 
Victor.  And, uh, subsequently became a sophomore. 

Well, gee, the Gossip Meter took a spike... Here was 
this TRANSFER student who was just a freshman 
YESTERDAY and now, not only did he get a role in the 
first show of the year, he's now a SOPHOMORE.

I avoided plugging in to the gossip. The Theater 
History class with Professor Bob Hetherington was 
a large class, a mix of freshmen and sophomore 
students.  Although I knew there was a little bit of  
Who Does He Think He Is kind of energy, it wasn't 
really that bad, and I'll tell you why.

I didn't play.  I could have been a snot. I could have 
been a Poor Me whiner with a Why Doesn't Everybody 
Like Me kind of attitude.  I could have contributed to 
that energy any number of ways -- but I chose not to. 
I just...did my work. I was there to learn how to be 
a better actor all around.
The week of opening, one of my new friends, Brad, was 
sitting beside me in Theater History. He scrawled a note 
on my paper (we usually traded silly cartoons and 
comments back and forth)...It was in reference to  
Private Lives.  He wrote, "You'd better be good." I 
laughed, but that half-joking note made me realize just 
how unaware I was at the degree to which both the 
freshmen and sophomore classes were watching me.

Still, I had too much to think about, with exams 
coming up, and the play opening and all.

Then, the Big Night, the Toughest Audience: Preview. 
The whole of the Acting Student body would be attending.

The show went well -- I think.  I truly don't remember 
anything specific, except being delighted that the 
audience was responding so well, thinking, opening 
night will never be this good...they're theatre of course they're supportive.

Well, the next day, I slept in. Well, over-slept is more 
accurate...don't even remember turning off the alarm. 
But I woke up with the sinking feeling that I was late for 
my Theater History exam.

I bolted out of bed, ran down the path from my 
apartment, ran down the hall, paused for a minute 
before going in the door--didn't want to be breathing 
TOO hard, right?

The room was set up sort of arena style, the five or six 
long rows of seats curved to focus on the professor's area
...with the door to one side of that. No way to really 
sneak into class. Face red, I opened the door as quietly 
as I could.

They all looked up from their exams.

Then they began to spontaneously applaud.

For a moment, I was confused. Then I got it: They 
approved.  I passed the test. (Or as Sally Field might 
say, "They liked me! They really liked me!")

But to me, it was more than that.  I had stayed above 
the fray; I didn't play any game I didn't want to.  I had 
a single-minded focus during my time at WSU. (Well...
most of the time.)

I don't remember what I got on my exam.  I did well 
enough, but it doesn't really matter, does it?

Here's to Your Empowerment!

Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2010 Tom Brooks and The Empowered Actor Initiative
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Actor's Opportunity to Be Naked

In your work as an actor, there is a great analogy I 
want to share it with you.

You are like a good, quality piece of wood; a fine 
piece of oak, walnut, or mahogany. Over time, this 
piece of wood has been covered by layer after 
layer of paint...

Infants are truly in the moment. They are simply 
present, moment to moment. They cry one minute, 
and happily play the next, depending on the dominant 

As we grow, we learn to behave differently 
depending on the circumstance... and the 
application of the first layers of paint begins.

Now, in our daily lives, we have so many layers 
we operate through. In a couple of places, and 
for a few select people, we might occasionally 
allow some of the original grain to show through. 
For some, it can become difficult to keep up with 
what layers needs to be shown to what people. It's 
easy to lose track of the original grain. Some 
forget who they are.

For the really fine actor, it is essential to get in touch 
with the original grain -- as close as possible, anyway. 
This does not mean constantly reliving a painful past, 
or even wearing your heart on your sleeve.  Rather,
understand you are a product of all that you have 
experienced; all you have been through has shaped 
your being. And there is no blame there for the bad
stuff, for it is you who decides how to move forward 
each day.

As an actor, you need to understand how to build instant 
rapport, for instance, when you are in a cold reading 
situation with another actor you've never met. According 
to the script, the characters are supposed to have been in 
a relationship for 17 years. So how do you do it? How do 
you establish in very few seconds a magnetic relationship
-- especially when your acting partner is a stranger?

You need to be able to shuffle off your own protective layers; 
become (or appear to become) vulnerable by allowing yourself 
to stand figuratively naked before the other actor (and 
therefore the audience) in order to allow them in; in order to 
allow them to be drawn in.


...Not putting on the voice, or creating the physicality first, 
but with Self. Truth. When you are OPEN to possibilities, the 
inspiration for voice and movement will come organically.

This process of becoming vulnerable and invoking honesty 
doesn't always happen in a linear fashion, nor does it need to. 
(Just a note here. The more experience you get with this 
process of opening up, the easier it becomes. You probably 
already do at least some of this intuitively anyway -- although 
it's easy to get in your own way and close the door, so to speak.)

It's Not All About You

For a variety of reasons, and in a variety of situations (audition 
vs. rehearsal vs. performance), you might not "feel" connected, 
open, or even creative. 

Oh, well. Tough. 

You can't wait around to start feeling stuff. So that, of course, 
is when you use your imagination, technique, etc., to give 
what the other actor needs. (Ironically, the process of 
attaining instant honesty and vulnerability is about giving, 
giving of self in a very uninhibited way.)

Soon you will be able to engage the honesty, the much 
sought-after vulnerability, within seconds. This process 
is very helpful with classical theatre, especially when 
acting Shakespeare. The thing that distances audiences 
from Shakespeare is often the actor...the actor who 
PUTS ON the character, and SHOWS US, instead of BEING 
and RESPONDING truthfully to the material and to fellow 
actors. It can be easy to forget that Shakespeare's 
characters are flesh and blood, so we start to perform 
with some sort of preconceived notion of what a 
Shakespearean performance should be.

Truly, that approach will distance ANY audience from 
any play, classical or contemporary; but as actors we 
can *generally* connect more easily with contemporary 
roles. But more on acting Shakespeare in a future article.

No matter the play, no matter the playwright, start with 
Self first.

THAT's how to BEGIN to make the words your own; for 
you must fully own them to have them come from the 
core of your being if you are going to serve the production, 
your fellow actors, and the audience.

I hope this has been helpful.

Here's to Your Empowerment!


Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2010 Tom Brooks and The Empowered Actor Initiative
All Rights Reserved