I’m about to drop a bomb on you. Ready? Okay. Here we go.
People will always think actors are pompous, self-centered hose-bags because actors generally have no discernable life skills beyond acting. What do I mean by that? Abilities that can’t keep underground mutants at bay after the apocalypse or the power on during wartime. Take “Escape From New York” or “Adventures of Baron Munchausen” for example.
Regardless of how seemingly useless the rest of the world thinks actors are, there a few things that actors do know: How to leave somebody else with the tab, the location of nearest karaoke bar and, most importantly, what acting is.
Unfortunately, these are “givens.” So, I decided to go the opposite route.
If you’re NOT an actor, consider this a guide to making sure you’re not being snowed while seeing a play or watching a film. If you ARE an actor and you contributed to this, thank you. And stop stroking yourself.
WHAT ACTING ISN’T:
What you try to show.
Trying to do what other actors do.
Maggie Bearmon Pistner
A bubble-boy quality. As an audience member, I prefer to feel as if there's something about me being there that contributes to the show I'm seeing. If you can do the show without me, then do so.
- Assuming your audience is dumb. And donning only underwear.
- Undeserving of one's passion.
- Forced jollity.
- Perversely unusual line readings.
- Swimming on the table.
- Being a star.
- Being beautiful.
Just saying lines, funny faces, gravitas, style, intensity, accents, auditioning, perfection and being consistent instead of human.
A two-way interaction between two actors. It's a three-way between two actors and the audience. Solo shows totally screw up the logic of my pithy acting wisdom. Damn solo shows.
- Always fun.
- A way to meet a lot of rich, straight men.
- The answer to your financial worries.
Clark A. Cruikshank
Yelling. It may indicate the presence of strong emotion, but it's mostly just loud and disturbing.
Linda Sue Anderson
Altruistic. It is not the most important thing in the world by a long shot and it is not nearly as valuable as being a teacher, a nurse, a garbage hauler or a dog catcher.
- Begging the audience to laugh at you through any means necessary by going off script and adding bits that are, literally, out of character.
- Copying the actor who did the movie version.
- Working out one's own demons through a character.
- A way for a gay man to "live the life through a gay character" without having to come out of the closet in real life.
- Leaning forward from the waist to get your point across.
- Saying the line the same way, despite how the scene has evolved because it got a laugh "that one time."
THAT IMPORTANT. Nobody's going to name a street after you. You're not changing the world with your performance. On your absolute best night, you're tickling the lives of six people at the Gremlin Theatre on University Avenue. So take a deep breath, wipe the smug off your face, and just try to have fun pretending to be something you're normally not.
Pretending. I swear I've seen people who can make walking across a room unbelievable. That's because they were "acting" like they were walking. Just walk across the fucking room.
Hard. And it shouldn’t be.
- Easy. Nor should it be.
- About your career.
- For the most part, a surface endeavor.
- Highlighting the best parts of yourself or showing yourself the way you would like to be seen.
- A broad-stroke activity.
- That hard to do, if you only have a couple lines.
- A very financially lucrative endeavor in Minneapolis.
Easy. It’s not for those who can't remain resilient without getting egotistical.
- Playing the same guy/gal in every performance.
- Stiff, unresponsive bodies on a stage.
- Being the director's puppet/action figure.
Trust the audience to understand what the hell your character is doing. Don't over indicate and over emote. Once they see you acting, you've lost them.
Sadness mandating tears.
Joel ‘Walt’ Raney
If you're unaware of what your hands, feet and body is doing while you're onstage, you're not acting, you're just nervous. And you're quickly becoming a drinking game for those of us with flasks.
- Trying to be interesting.
- Making every moment about yourself.
- A competition.
"Saw(ing) the air too much with your hand thus." Hamlet's 'advice to the players' in Act 3, Scene 2 still rings true on what acting shouldn't be.
Michael Paul Levin
As a parent I've become all too aware that young actors are told merely to 1) Remember your lines and 2) say them loudly. While this is sound advice, unfortunately many actors never progress beyond this point.
- Creating a character first and then trying to fit it to the lines you're given.
- Talking AT your scene partner/s.
All about you. If you’re crying big fat elephant tears and quivering your voice, but you aren't viscerally, emotionally, mentally moving the other actors, then please, I'd rather that your shrink listened to you.
"Acting," it’s reacting. For film acting, the best performances and talent don't act at all.
Dishonest. If it isn't coming from a real place, whether it's comedy or drama, nobody's gonna buy it.
A “performance.” This leads to a lot of emoting exactly on cue, indistinguishable takes, verbatim dialogue readings and nothing that bears any resemblance to an actual human being in a real life situation.
- About actors that do not listen on stage.
- About actors who do not want or know how to be a scene partner.
- About actors that are mean. No joke!
Once you see the acting wheels turning, the train is off the track.
It's about the play, it's about the play, it's about the play – not YOU. Hold on tightly, let go lightly.
A good way to get rich.
Bullshit head games in the waiting room trying to fuck with other actor's heads to torpedo their audition. These fucknuts aren't artists, they are manipulative douche-nozzles. Of course there's a lot more of this nozzlery in TV and film than I encountered in the theatre.
- Complicated. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. Getting a play on its feet is difficult enough, making it sing is even harder.
- Public speaking. It doesn’t mean I love to get in front of a crowd and hold court. Without a script I don’t want to be anywhere near a microphone.