Are Your Acting Habits Affecting Your Performances?

byNate Flower

cale-icon27-02-2015 62 view-icon

nathan-flower-movement-technique-actors-05It is easy for emergent actors to be cavalier about or completely unaware of their physical habits and restrictions. An uninformed actor might think she can gamble with her talent or investment in training; assuming that she can summon her most physically creative, expansive and authentic behavior at will. The inexperienced, emergent actor can assume that she needs only to work on her emotional, creative or imaginative components to develop sustainable craft. But really- when we watch an actor on stage or film- what are we watching? We can’t perceive the imagination directly nor do we perceive the emotional life directly. What we perceive is the body; the physical embodiment of these personal and artistic components. If the actor’s behavior is cluttered with extraneous physical noise- the performance will be cloudy at best. More importantly, if the internal phenomena of the actor- the breath, alignment, muscular ease, etc- are blocked the actor herself will feel disconnected from her experience and will be unable to fully process her impulses into behavior.

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It is very common for actors to have difficulty distinguishing between what is habitual and what is natural. Often when pointing out to an actor who is new to training that she is demonstrating a physical habit that is blocking her, she might say, “Well, that’s just who I am- that’s just me!”. It’s difficult to imagine that ‘who we are’ and ‘our habits’ are not the same. Human beings are creatures of habit- we are hardwired to find and promote habits that help us feel familiar to ourselves and to our surroundings- even if the habits are not healthy or helpful. Most of these habits are subconscious and for the actor-guidance is required to develop awareness and the possibility of making new choices. The actor cannot be ‘at war’ with herself internally or externally.

Therefore it is essential that the actor first become aware and come to terms with his or her physical habits; ambient physical noise, nervous/anxious physical behavior and the psychological or internal phenomena that drive it. Second the actor needs to be guided to a physical practice where that habitual noise is no longer the loudest thing in the actor’s body; where new habits can be formed; slowly beginning to support the actors impulses instead of restricting them. Third, that the actor be given the opportunity to develop these new habits into a heightened sense of physical and theatrical artistry, comfort and ease- enabling the actor to realize her vision for herself. This doesn’t happen overnight. Yes- small, significant changes can take place in an actor’s body soon after undertaking physical training. These endeavors take patience, constant attention and practice as well as a long-term vision to achieve goals. Developing better physical performance habits requires no less- but the payoff is can be remarkable in an actor’s craft and career.

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