Dear actor, HAPPY NEW YEAR! It’s the perfect time to look at some new attitudes, behaviors and training tools to keep us growing and give you some encouragement on this journey.
First… If you spot it – you got it. That remark popped into my mind when a friend of mine was having trouble with a mutual friend.
Trust me: this is leading to better acting and better living.
Have you ever known someone who loves finding faults with someone and making a joke about it? It’s called “taking the mickey”, as my British friends say, and once in a while it’s funny. But a steady diet of character assassination can be really off-putting. Being a guy who tries to turn the other cheek, I tried to understand their reasons for doing this. And then Stanislavsky kicked in, and I looked at their OBJECTIVE while they pursued the ACTIONS of TO MOCK and TO BELITTLE. This person has often said they were unhappy in their work, but nevertheless they have a big ego about their job, and, because they are naturally a little low in self-esteem, they have a need to make themselves look bigger by bringing other people down. (This all happens on the subconscious level as it does with so many characters… if we’re willing to dig deeply).
And then I realised if I spotted it, that means I got it. And yes, I do the exact same tactic sometimes when I’m feeling insecure. It’s distasteful to me and I’ve been working on it, which makes it easier to spot in others.
Aristotle said, and I teach it to my students on The Actor’s Way, CHARACTER = ACTION.
So here are my OBJECTIVES and ACTIONS for 2022.
To borrow from a spiritual teacher, I want to be “easygoing, forgiving, compassionate and unconditionally loving – toward all life, in all its expressions, without exception, including myself. And I want to give unselfish service, consideration and respect to all creatures.” (Dr. David R. Hawkins, psychiatrist).
Less enlightened creatures like me then protest: “What about me!? When do I get my love and compassion?” For that, I’m going to turn to the St. Francis Prayer – which, incidentally, works very well before an audition. Don’t worry: it ain’t churchy, it’s spiritual and practical.
And part of that commitment to being of service to you is that each month I’m going to send you a blog post to keep you developing your skills, including your sensory skills – which have been dormant for a few years in this COVID cultural wasteland. Which bring us to…
OBJECTIVE 2: I want to accentuate the sensory – eliminate the digital
How much time are you spending on your devices? More than you were two years ago? Me too – I’m guilty as well since the COVID era began. My brain tells me that I simply have to learn more about COVID each day so that I can feel more secure – but then I’m an old fart. You may have your own drug of choice (er… platform). But if we want to get further in our art, let’s work on our acting and sensory skills.
What do I mean by that? Let’s all become a flaneur. That’s a French term coined by Baudelaire for someone who strolls through the city in order to experience it. You’re not rushing, you’re not getting anywhere – you’re absorbing all the sights and sounds (and watching for clues for interesting characters!). You can also do this in a park or a wood. Spend as much time outdoors as you can, it’s so much healthier than sheltering inside.
And if we don’t set aside our digital crutch?
I’ve taught a great number of students over the years and helped many of them to win places at top drama schools. But the actors who have to settle for their second choice, or give up entirely, all seem to spend too much time on Xbox. Picture it: while they’re doing that, some hungry young actor is actually developing her acting muscles, and it shows in the audition. A-level grades don’t amount to a hill of beans, it’s all down to the audition. Which students can ace even better on my structured actor training course called The Actor’s Way.
And if you’re thinking of joining, be warned: I collect all mobile phones at the start of each lesson. Acting is about connecting with another human being, you know.
OBJECTIVE 3: I want to be busy being born.
That’s a phrase from Bob Dylan: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
To be alive is a wonder, and we actors can choose to start each new day growing our skills, spreading our reach, broadening our mind and soul, giving that little extra effort to love ourselves so we can be more truthful, sensitive and vulnerable in our work. Plus learning an accent, mastering a new monologue, reading a new play or book and asking: how would I interpret it? Or visiting an art gallery and savoring the creativity of another great artist. Ask: what were they expressing through their art? How does it affect me and relate to me? How can I store that experience in my mind so that I can use it later. I’ve seen pieces of art which I drew on 40-years later and my characterization was much richer and relatable because I saw that Edward Hopper in the Whitney Museum in New York.
Each day that we wake up is precious – because we exchange one day of our live for it.
Don’t worry: Film, TV & Stage productions will be cooking up soon. And with so many new outlets, NETFLIX, Amazon, Apple, Disney, etc. let’s be ready for the Spring awakening.
To get you started:
- watch my skills video: How to Pick & Perform a Monologue, and I’ll even give you a free copy of the workbook to keep you busy (offer ends at the end of January, 2022).
- think about taking my intensive online version of The Actor’s Way. You can even get a 50% discount if you quote: 2022 (offer expires at the end of… you get it).
- if you’re in the UK I’ll be running The Actor’s Way Live Course beginning in March. You can find out more details here.
With that: I’m off to learn the Hickey monologue from ‘The Iceman Cometh’ as an exercise in making each moment specific when the character bounces back and forth between loving his wife and loathing her after he has just murdered her. Come to think of it: maybe a comic piece…
Again Happy New Year and do let me know if I can help you on your journey in any way.
Bryan Bounds, MFA in Acting, UK-based / US-bred, is a professional actor, teacher, director and award-winning screenwriter. He created the Neuro Acting system of actor training to meet the special needs of new actors today. The next term of The Actor’s Way Live Course begins March 2 in the UK.