Great acting is coming out of sessions of the American School of Acting. And here’s why. Students have laid the foundation of their technique, and most are believing me when I say they need to get past the point of working to remember their lines.
Great acting resembles spontaneous life. It's natural, it's believable and it draws you in. But great acting requires work.
Let me compare the process of bad acting to the behavior in the real world when someone is working to remember their lines:
Dad: How did that vase break?
Son: I don’t know...I just walked by, and it fell off and broke.
Dad: I don’t believe you. Go to your room.
Wife: Where were you last night?
Husband: I had to work late.
Wife: I don’t believe you. Go to your man cave.
Nobody believes it when someone is working to remember what to say. And that applies to actors. Acting guru Stella Adler put it this way: “When you most succeed, you do so by seeming not to act at all.”
The hammy actor loves to hear that. They think it means there's no work. And here’s their war cry: “I don’t have to really learn my lines, because my scene is emotional anyway, and if I don't learn my lines, I can just feel the adrenaline, and it will seem spontaneous and I’ll look better!”
WRONG. It will seem nervous and fake. Why? Because you're stuck in your analytical brain trying to write your own lines. Realistic people don't behave that way, and people can tell when someone's doing it. The very act will make you uncomfortable and you will pass that onto your audience. They deserve more than that.
So, whether you're an ASA apprentice or artist, please accept that good acting that feeds you and the audience requires you to be like the swan gliding across the lake - you don’t see the work that’s going on under the surface. What work?
Being vulnerable to your partner
Fighting for your objective
Overcoming your obstacle
Putting all your focus and strength on the doing-ness of your behavior - and not the words you’re saying.
“You'll begin to act when you can forget your technique - when it is so securely inside you that you need not call upon it consciously.” Stella Adler
Now go to your room…and learn your lines. You’ll be brilliant.
Bryan Bounds, professional actor, teacher and writer is the founder of the American School of Acting in Yorkshire, providing 21st century classical actor training to young artists.