Actors can become obsessed with the desire to appear “natural” or “real”. They can become enveloped in this quest. Trapped. Things they do, responses they have are all determined by what someone else – the audience – will believe. Or, even worse, what the audience will accept.
“Natural” or “real” (although quite different terms artistically) have, for the most part, come to describe behavior that looks like something that might be witnessed in the real world. At the coffee shop. In a bar. In the park. At the beach. In any standard, normal everyday environment.
But plays don’t take place in any standard, normal every day environment. Plays take place in the world of the play. Sounds like double-speak. Or just plain BS. But a play is a heightened event. Most stories are. Whether on the stage, on the screen, or on the page. We read, listen to, and watch stories because something out of the ordinary, non-standard, and abnormal is very likely to take place. It could be as magical as falling down a rabbit hole. Or it could be as sublime as falling in love. It is the atypical event that hooks us: the listener, the reader, the spectator.
And it is usually the atypical responses of the actor that intrigue and hook us as well. These responses, based upon the world of the play, can free the actor from the obsession to appear natural or real. The better question or concern for the actor is, given the world of the play, Do I Believe What I Am Doing? If the actor believes, the audience will believe as well.