The Gold in the Action

This month, we are seeing a daily offering of success and failure, drama and emotion, hope and despair. The Olympics is the pinnacle of many years of training and investment and the emotion that comes with success and failure reflects much more than a desire to succeed, but a deep love of their sport and the desire to excel at their discipline. The Olympics offers up much to consider and not just the math of years of focus and training, but to claim the title “Olympian”, an athlete must go much farther than the gym or the track. Just as they have to go beyond their athletic ability to consummate the sport they play, the actor must treat training the instrument as more than the skill to do; they must find within them the desire to be creative and playful

Much of the training of an actor focuses upon the actor. The central issues of relaxation and inspiration are clearly crucial to bringing life to the material. Though there are some erudite approaches to the material itself, the script is in fact something that gets overlooked as the actor struggles with themselves and the drama that they bring to their creative aspirations. While obsessing about being a good or great actor is understandable, the task in fact is to bring work to the material, not work to show how good you are with the material. A director or producer clearly wants to see how the actor works the material itself, not just how the actor works. When I’m coaching somebody, a common statement I hear is ‘there’s not much in this scene’, where in fact, when I look at the material, though the text may seem simple at first glance, it is in fact rich with pointers and information. It is the skill of the actor to relate, deconstruct, and formulate their interpretation of the script. It is the creative construct that defines good acting as much as skill.

Execution of the construct is vital for any person with an intelligent sense of the material; it is central to bring it to life. If you can’t formulate a succinct, empathetic, or even passionate view of the character and the writing, no level of skill in the world will compensate. Just as someone cannot really fake passion for something they are not interested or even concerned about, so the actor could have all the greatest of experiential skills in the world – which would do little for the script – if they cannot bring an interpretation, opinion, or more importantly, a skilled construction.

From the obvious important steps of interpreting and formulating an opinion about the script, the real consummation comes in the construct. There is the choice of how the character communicates, takes actions, what and how they wear, even the pace of their walk and the rhythm of their breath are central to the revelation of the story and the characters in it. It is this detail that defines good from bad, it is this precise work brought to an audition or performance which is central to a career and a greater demonstration of craft.

An actor must be offering up more than just emotion or sense of authenticity. Acting is much more than how, it’s why and the why is in the text. The why is the core of the story that the actor tells. Same as any Olympian we see who knows why, which enables them to expand from just physical skill to excel, so the actor must bring the work on their instrument to the material and not just the desire to succeed. As we watch the daily events of success and failure, it is not so much the wining and losing that moves us – it is the demonstration of dedication, skill and most importantly, love of the sport itself that moves us. So too an audience is not moved by a skilful actor, but how that skill is used to bring the love of the play to life.

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