In order to fly free, actors – probably all artists – have to let go of the controller. Shut down the monitor. Turn off the ‘decider’. Kick out the censor.
If you put in the ‘ammunition’ – what you need – why you say those words – where you are – what has led to this situation – the past and present of those relationships: you never have to ask yourself ‘how’ to do it. When your preparation is specific, when it is ‘YOU – as if …’ – you never have to ‘show’ us, ‘try to make it interesting’, be bothered about whether the work is ‘big’ or ‘small’. It is a game of life – and life is in the game.
If you act things out – improvise key past moments or moments you refer to; if you engage with your body via physical metaphor, press-ups, hidden animals, memory and imagination – anything that allows you to enter your body so that you come out of your analysing self; if you commit to the instinctive body reactor – you will be able to let go and play true make-believe. Your body will know what to do. Your head will be full of pictures.
You will feel safe and alive in the imaginary situation. You will be able to actually listen – listen for real. See for the first time – see in the present – not in your planned assumptions. You haven’t heard it before. You don’t know what will happen. You deal moment by moment – working it out as you go.
When I ask actors to tell me their real personal stories on screen – they never shadow what is to come. They have the ammunition because it happened to them, so they feel safe. They tell me what they experienced blow by blow. Moment by moment. They take their time. Their gestures are specific. Their speech rhythms vary. They take on the voices and mannerisms of people they talk about. It is crucial for them that we share the pictures in their heads. They are detailed, accurate, re-living, re-seeing the situation. They laugh, they cry – but never where you’d expect them to. When they get to the awful/wonderful/sad/joyful thing that happened – is happening – it surprises them.
Watching them on screen we see clearly the body being there again; the memories in their muscles; their shining seeing eyes full of thoughts; the engaging of emotion. They are vivid, riveting. All unplanned. Spontaneous. In glorious freefall.