When I first started acting, I would get so excited to work on my audition sides. I would put all the work I did in class to the test. ‘What’s the story? Who am I? How many lines to I have? What’s my motivation?!” The first read of the sides felt so fresh, new and alive! However after all the WORK I put into it something seemed flat. Somewhere in the time between the first read and the audition the excitement fizzled out. “What happened? I put a lot of work into this audition. It should be amazing!”.
I believe doing the work is vital as an actor. However, I also believe that a scene can be OVER-WORKED. Below are signs when my scene was OVER-WORKED:
1) I figured out exactly HOW I am going to say every line.
2) I figured out exactly HOW I am going to REACT to the readers lines.
3) I figured out exactly which word to give emphasis to show my depth of emotion. (“I love YOU” versus “ I LOVE you”)
4) I figured out exactly what to do with my hands and face. (I press my hand to my chest when I say “love” for the line, “I love YOU”. Then furrow my brow to show I mean it)
I really did all of the above back in college and when I first started auditioning! Ugh. I was over-working the scene and the result was a stale performance. I knew in my gut that there had to be a different way of approaching the work.
I wanted to bring that fresh, new, life back to the work. Improvisation training was the key to unlocking the life. Improv gives you no way of figuring out exactly how to do anything! Improv forces you to “not know”.
The more improv scenes I do, the more I build the muscle of “not knowing”. The result is a new muscle called PLAY. I believe that an actor must do the WORK on the scripted scene FIRST. Then stop, and bring in the PLAY. Playing keeps the fresh, new and alive feel throughout the work. Below are a few ways how to bring the PLAY after the WORK:
1) PERMISSION: I give myself permission to do, say, feel, react, think anything that strikes me in the moment. That is my truth. Honor the truth always. It leads you to spontaneity.
2) LET it be Different: Instead of trying to figure out that ONE way of doing a scene, I now let it be different. Improv showed me that you can not do the same scene twice. So, instead of trying to replicate a performance, I start back at the beginning and find out what happens as if it were new.
3) ALWAYS Explore: I give myself permission to explore the scene every time I do it. In between takes I explore the world, the given circumstances, my want, and am willing to change any of them to surprise myself and excite me about the next take. The next take will then have a fresh, new life because I am open to exploring where it goes.
4) YES, YES, YES!: I accept EVERYTHING that is happening right now without trying to control or invent anything. Controlling and inventing are signs of working. By the time I am in the room all I can do is let go, accept everything that is happening. I have learned that accepting is a muscle that must be developed it does not just appear. A quick “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” chant gets me into that space of being open and ready to play!