THE JOB OF THE ACTOR

Oct 15, 2011 by

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J.D. Salinger once said, “You were a reader before you were a writer.” By the same token, all actors started out as audience members. What were the first things that struck us about the theatre? What are the things that draw us to the theatre again and again? What creates those moments that every audience member has had of sitting up in his chair because something has struck him in the gut? These moments are under no one person’s control; their creation is shared equally by audience, actor, director, and technician. Realizing this, the actor must understand that it is not rational to say, “It is my job to create these magical moments.” Instead, he should realize that all he can do is to bring himself to the theatre in optimum condition and then doing them consistently so that they become habitual to him will give the actor the satisfaction of always knowing what to do, what his job truly is.

The actor will find, however, that while his job may be clearly identifiable, it will not be easy. For example, to be in optimum condition to do a play, the actor must have a strong, resonant voice. But developing this kind of voice takes most people many years of training, of applying the will to working daily on effective vocal exercises. The actor knows he must develop a body that will do whatever is asked of it, but this again requires the discipline to exercise as well as the study of movement so that the body will become as strong, supple, and graceful as the physical constraints within which he was born (about which he can do nothing) will allow. The actor must look at himself honestly, which requires a great deal of bravery, and use his common sense to determine what his own shortcomings are. Then he must determine which of these shortcomings it is within his control to change. Given this, he must devote himself to doing everything he can correct those things within his control; he must use his will to become to the fullest possible extent that person he would ideally like to be. Then when he comes to the theatre, he can have the satisfaction of saying to himself, “I know exactly what my job is. I have done everything in my power to be ready to go onstage.” This will free him to be more completely involved with the play as it unfolds onstage, because he will not be worrying about what he could have done to be more prepared.

As an actor, you should never concern yourself with “talent.” Talent, if it exists at all, is completely out of your control. Whatever talent might be, you either have it or you don’t, so why waste your energy worrying about it? The only talent you need to act is a talent for working — in other words, the ability to apply yourself in learning the skills that make up the craft of acting. To put it simply, anyone can act if he has the will to do so, and anyone who says he wants to but doesn’t have the knack for it suffers from a lack of will, not a lack of talent.

If it sounds like an awful lot, it is. Acting requires common sense, bravery, and a lot of will: the common sense to translate whatever you are given into simple actable terms; the bravery to throw yourself into the action of the play despite fear of failure, self-consciousness, and a thousand other obstacles; and the will to adhere to your ideals, even though it might  not be the easiest thing to do.

This is what I call performance.

The legendary Patti LuPone

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1 Comment

  1. mary joy

    panu po makaka audition at saan po pwedeng mag audition?

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