Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Type of Actor Are You? Part1- Emotional vs. Technical Acting

“Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself.” - John Gielgud
Yes, as promised, I will deal with the topic of the different acting styles.  Of course, there are many acting styles out there now, but in this post I will deal with only two of the major styles.

Emotional vs. Technical Acting

There is a great debate whether a person should be true to the emotions of the character by actually "feeling" the character's emotion, or should he/she merely "express" the emotions of the character.  Emotional acting is
when an actor gives himself entirely to that character's emotions; they actually become that character.  The emotional actor relies on instinct and inspiration.  He lets his inner-self tell him what to do, how to react, and etc.  He often loses himself in the role.  Technique is not a big concern (how to walk, sit, use props, etc.) for the emotional actor.  The only downfall (and I use this very loosely) in emotional acting is that you can't expect the same exact performance every time.  If a person were to sit in the audience for more than one performance, they would most likely say that an emotional actor was dead on it one night, and the next night, they weren't quite feeling it.  Emotional acting relies greatly on how the actor is feeling themselves that day.  Some people even go to the extent of feeling the role even off-stage.  I can remember practicing roles and feeling it emotionally so much that I would walk around the school campus as if I were that person.  Sometimes it can take a toll on an actor emotionally and even sometimes physically.

 "An actress is someone who's able to use herself, not just lose control.  That would be self-indulgence; that wouldn't be acting." - Estelle Parsons

Technical acting is when an actor eliminates "feeling" the role and relies wholly on theater and stage techniques.  Emotion is only seen and not felt.  There are theater techniques (that I will go into more detail in a later post) that tell you how to sit, stand, walk, speak, kiss, etc.  The technical actor is detail oriented, and leaves hardly anything to chance.  His/her performance might be very similar, if not the same, every time.
"If he [the actor] allows his emotion to dominate the performance, he will lose all unity, all power of reproducing the character.... Personally, I have not 'felt the part' before an audience in twenty years.  Acting, to me, is always a case of 'outside looking in.'  Without that detachment it is impossible for me to maintain the control necessary to keep the performance at proper pitch."- Raymond Massey

There is, however, a middle group to the two acting styles.  You can feel a role without allowing that character to take you over.  You don't have to lose yourself.  Remember, you have to still be there when the role is over.  We shouldn't have to do an exorcism after you perform a role.  Think about it, who actually knows how much an actor "feels" a role?  There is no feel-o-meter on the stage or on the screen.  Just because you see tears doesn't mean that an actor felt a role any more than a person who didn't tear up.  There is a story about a well known actor who was performing a deeply moving role.  A fellow actor was watching him from the wings, and everyone was in awe of his performance.  As he exited the stage and into the wings of the theater, with tears still pouring down his eyes, he asked how the poker game was going backstage.

That said, do what's good (or safe) for you.  There are many technical actors who have won Tony or Academy awards, especially in the earlier years.  At the same time, there are many actors who give their all emotionally and have never seen an award for it.  Keep in mind that whether it's emotional or technical acting, the most important thing is being true to the role and the audience.  Audiences love it when there is a sincerity in your acting.  They come for the story in it's entirety, not to see whether or not you feel a role.  They want to forget that you're even acting.  Honesty is key!  Trust me, the audience always knows.  Be true to yourself, be true to your character, and most importantly, be true to your audience.

"If you are to do justice to [the great roles], you must fly up to them -- rather than dragging them down to you -- by expanding your range of knowledge and strengthening your imagination. Your imagination must become as real to you as your memories and feelings. What you take into yourself about psychology, politics, sociology, history and so on, will allow you to reach places in yourself you didn't know existed. No line, no image, no thought can be left general. Each must be specific and personal. Your work is not complete until this is so." - Harold Guskin

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