Some time ago, a supremely gifted artist – a designer, director, actor, producer, and an entrepreneur – offered some very sage advice to me: Do one thing every day to improve your skill as an actor.
Just one thing. Even if it’s only for ten minutes. It seems simple enough, but with the rush and responsibilities of each and every day it is so easy to let that one simple thing slip past. I believe that part of the challenge can be attributed to the ephemeral and ethereal nature of creativity. Actors and artists in general are intuitive. We so often solve problems outside the realm of the rational mind. We instinctively listen and respond with our gut. So it should come as no surprise that for many of us the very mention of such a phrase “scene analysis” is crippling, confounding, and perhaps even constipating. Analysis requires a systematic approach. The creative act doesn’t work that way at all. It is fueled by inspiration, by a moment’s recognition, by the ever illusive
But it is absolutely necessary for actors to create a deliberate systematic approach to their art. For one thing, it enables the actor to trouble-shoot. David Gideon, an actor, a
director, a master teacher, a life-time member of the Actors Studio and protégé of Lee Strasberg, once respectfully challenged his mentor when Mr. Strasberg requested that he begin to teach. Mr. Gideon compared the art, talent, and skill of acting to an automobile. He offered that Mr. Strasberg had taught him how to drive his own car, but now he was asking Mr. Gideon to be a mechanic – to trouble-shoot the difficulties that others were having in the operation of their own unique vehicles. In addition, these
trouble-shooting techniques had to be communicated in such a way that enabled the actor in the future to daignose accurately any problem and determine, at the very least, a viable remedy.
During a seminar in New York at the Actors Studio Drama School, Al Pacino offered that acting for him is achieving the subconscious through the conscious. Through the practical application of specific skills, the actor can create a foundation in which his instinct can flourish.
In order to improve in any systematic way, we need to develop practices to enhance our skill set and encourage our imaginations, our instinctual responses, our talents to bubble and boil and burst.
Here’s a suggestion to lay the foundation, and it comes from Uta Hagen’s Respect for
Acting and A Challenge for the Actor. Think of a task you do every day or several times per week that takes about 2-3 minutes to complete. Record the steps, the actions, necessary to complete that task – just the physical steps. Don’t concern yourself with thoughts or feelings. Concentrate only the physical. Once you’ve completed a detailed, specific list of steps or actions, repeat the task 5 times the exact same way
That’s 10 to 15 minutes right there. Congratulations, you just elevated your ability as an actor!