First let me clarify that ‘Award-winning’ in this context refers to an effective and distinctive performance as opposed to the
undeserving awards that often compromise our events.
It is important to point out that new techniques of acting are always being discovered and explored. Acting can easily be compared to ICT where new software applications are the order of the day. It is therefore folly to insist that you have the best and most perfect approach and ignorant if you think that the approach you used in the past is still the most appropriate in the present. This is how our old school actors and directors get and remain stuck in a rut.
Acting techniques have been evolving since time immemorial beginning with our very own African ritualistic ‘theatre’ and musical performances to the patriarchs and matriarchs of modern acting techniques like Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, Michael Chekhov, Utah Hagen, Viola Spolin, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Oh Sae Tuk…just to mention but a few.
As a continuation from the last blog post, here is a game-upping procedure that has helped me master my roles:
Depending on how you want to approach the scripted story, you may decide to read the whole script or only read what relates to your character. I remember a script in which I decided to ignore the other characters and developed my own character in genuine empathy of his background and recent realities. I was properly shocked when I watched the show and discovered that I was actually the main villain in the show! Some directors may choose to do that intentionally to enable the actor explore the positive traits of the antagonist. All in all, you must understand the background of your character and the environment that affects him.
After that, read your dialogue out loud. Look at the lines and read only as much as you can store in your memory. Look away from the script, breathe in and out and say it as naturally as you can. Let every word released be an honest reflection of your feelings. Do not worry about the words that you don’t connect with emotionally- say them as flat as they come out of your mouth. For example, if you are saying, ‘I love you’ and at that moment the word ‘love’ does not mean anything to you, do not try and emphasize it.
Moving on, read out loud the lines of the other character as well. After you finish, repeat what the character said in form of a question. For example, if the character’s line was ‘I love you too’, you will say loudly, ‘I love you too.’ Then repeat the statement as a question, thus you say “Did you say that you love me too?” But before you look at the next line in which the character you are playing is supposed to answer, give your own genuine answer such as “Heck, now I’m in trouble.” Maintain the emotion and expression you have used in your own genuine answer as you read out the answer offered in the script, such as “Of course darling.”
This technique has a little bit of Michael Chekov’s philosophy and Practical Aesthetic method. Although it might appear long and challenging at first (But you Try Meisner’s and you will think twice about this!), it enables the actor to avoid working from the intellect which only promotes secondary emotions. This is not to say that intellect is to be ignored but in order to redress the balance between intellect and emotion, emotion must take the front lead, if only for a little while.
It does benefit a hardworking actor who would like to dig deeper into his/her work. The most important and neglected part of learning text is preparation. You may do well to remember that during a performance, you are, as an actor, the piece of art. Only there is no canvas. The audience wants to ogle and consume every moment that you have to offer.
Feel free to share some of the methods that have helped you as an actor/ actress deliver on your lines in the comments’ section.