The Breath of Life: What are you creating?
“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). I am in no way equating mortal man with God. Yet our job as actors is to breath life into our characters. Our tools are the the playwright's or screen writer’s words and physical choices that are communicated through behavior. This “breath of life” that we breath into our characters begins with a thought. Contemporary neuroscience tells us that thinking drives both behavior and feelings. How we, human beings, behave in any circumstance is influenced by our thinking. So, if we believe that our characters personify “real” beings that we bring to life, knowing how s/he thinks is an important aspect of determining how s/he behaves in a given circumstance. We, actors, are often so quick to read a script and immediately decide what the character wants without regard to how the character thinks and behaves (responds) in the circumstance. This often leads to a superficial expression of the character. I invite you to take a few extra minutes to understand a character’s thinking so that you can understand how the character, not you, interprets a situation and subsequently responds.
The Unleashed Acting Technique draws on aspects of cognitive behavioral psychology (“CBP”) to uncover the character’s thinking and behavioral patterns. CBP is based on the theory that how we think, how we feel and how we behave are intimately linked. We now know that our thoughts determine our feelings and behaviors. To create believable characters, we need to understand the character’s thoughts and how those thoughts impact behavior. Understanding how your character thinks will help you understand what the character wants/needs on a deeper level. You will also understand what drives the character. And you will know what the real STAKES are for your character. How many times have we, as actors, heard the phrase, “Raise the stakes!” This is easier said than done if you don’t know what drives the character’s behavior at a deep core level.
How do you get to this core thinking and behaving? The text. The text provides the keys to understanding a character’s thoughts and behaviors. Unleashed Acting uses a unique technique that allows actors to unlock and quickly decode textual clues that reveal character thoughts, behaviors and triggers that drive behavior. The Technique also uses imagination to flesh out character history so that the monologue, scene, play, screenplay, etc. is anchored to a real life and real life circumstances that support the character’s core needs and behaviors.
We know that acting is more than reciting words. It requires actors to bring truth and honesty to their work -- breathing life into the words and behaviors. Truth in acting is being true to and honoring the character’s truth -- vulnerabilities, fears, flaws, power, strengths, masks, etc. Truth comes from a deep place within one’s soul, and is shaped in part by one’s beliefs, values, assumptions thoughts, perceptions, and fears. Getting to character truth requires more than a cursory review of the text and identifying objectives, tactics and obstacles. To get to his/her truth, you must know who s/he is at the core and what has shaped his/her life. Unleashed Acting takes acting to the next level. We get to the core!
Next article, Who are You?