Meisner, Movement & Presence

Everything Acting and Embodied

Leave a comment

Acting & Vulnerability

Lately I’ve been watching TED talks by Brene Brown. She really nails it about the courage to enter the arena…and to, as she says, dare greatly. Knowing you may fail. Knowing you will be emotionally exposed. Knowing you are vulnerable.

Marci Phillips of ABC gives workshops and always talks about her love for actors and the need for something in our lives to sustain us through the ups and downs, the inevitable rejections. As an old coach of mine once said to me, “Some people just won’t get you. And some…definitely will.”

The joy of acting is how alive we feel when we tiptoe, walk or leap to our own edge, when we try something new, when we allow ourselves to be seen. There is no escaping the need for this…the most successful actors in the business constantly seek to find another role that scares them, that pushes them. This is not a field in which you can coast and do good work.

What I love about the Brene Brown talks is the focus on values. Because just like choosing an aesthetic that inspires your particular talent–I loved Meisner immediately for the sharing and connectedness that is its focus–you have to be inspired to keep acting. You have to believe in it. I always say that actors live in the choice between the gods of ego and the gods of humanity. Ego is the cotton candy of life…feels good when you first taste it, but holds no nourishment. Ego is about name-dropping, and aggrandizement. Humanity is about telling good stories with good people and being present for it.

My own particular temptation with ego is getting laughs. I can be all present and focused on generosity with my scene partners, but if I start getting laughs for a certain acting choice, I have a compulsion to play to that, because it’s such a high. Of course, they laugh harder and more often if I’m just living the insanity of the character–and, no lie, I get insanity on a lot of levels.

I am inspired by the challenge–stay vulnerable, stay open, stay willing to be exposed, willing to fail, stay at the edge, risking, knowing that I’m going to blow it some of the time, or they won’t like me when I do my best work, or maybe they think I’m too old, or not old enough.

I am inspired by the stories I want to tell, by my love for those stories, by getting to tell them with people who are talented and smart and inspired themselves.

Knowing what I’m in this to do grounds me in who I am. You can’t lose that. Or whose sense of meaning will you bring to the craft?

Be you. Stay vulnerable. Be inspired. And hell, be scared. This is how you know you’re alive. It’s how you know you’re really acting.




Leave a comment

Audition Mistake #2

Last week I wrote about presence.  As in, Presence.  About fighting what’s true in the moment and killing any chance of being who we really are because we’re…fighting what’s true in the moment.

There is nothing more important than living in the danger of the moment.  Its uncertainty.  Its vulnerability.  Its complete unpredictability.

I’m repeating myself on purpose, because this is the crucible of acting we all seek to avoid, EVEN WHEN WE KNOW WE DON’T WANT TO AVOID IT.  And I’m repeating myself because I believe the next biggest mistake is in preparing for auditions.  And while it’s true that a surprising number of actors don’t prepare enough, it’s even more true that most of us use the wrong preparation.

What is the wrong preparation?

Deciding how to say the lines.

It’s probably better to under-prepare than to decide how every line should be said and then deliver those decisions.  My friend, Don Foley, used to do any co-star audition as an improvisation–he barely looked at the lines, let alone memorized them.  He thought it was fun to throw himself into it, using his real self, and learn the lines as he went.

He booked, a lot.

So if the wrong preparation is about line readings, what is the right preparation?

Well, that’s a class–to really talk about preparing every aspect of walking into and then taking the room.  But the start is:

1) Figure out what kind of role it is.  What does the role serve?  What is the function of the character?

2) If it’s supporting, guest star, or leading role, the next step is to really delve into how you identify with the character, and then start to replace the people and events they talk about with people and events from your life, so that everything is as real and specific as possible.

The biggest mistake actors make is in deciding how to say the lines instead of creating a world that is emotionally rich.

3) For co-star roles, the opposite is true.  To create too much for a one or two-liner means you’ll steal focus, and it also means you don’t understand what your role is for (always to support someone or something else).  For co-star roles, the prep is to not act, and just do it as you would in life in a similar situation.

And with this, and all other prep, the job is then to go in, tell the emotional truth of your body and the moment (in your tone, in your emotions, in your personality), trusting that the understanding you’ve developed will filter in as it should.

Like I said, a start.  Presence is dependent on truth, and that means allowing yourself to experience your nervousness or any other feeling.  Preparation is about bringing yourself into the role…either by not acting, or by the most profound identification you can find.

Go forth and act!

And if you want to learn more, Uplevel Your Auditions is coming this fall.  Email if you’d like to get on the email list.