Acting for Singers: Day 1, Topic 4
How would you finish the sentence above? What do your actions say the end of this sentence is? What do you think your most important asset is? Do you agree with the answer that comes to mind or is it an answer you think someone else would think is the correct answer? Let me share with you what my answer would be and why.
There are a few convincing possible answers to what the most important asset is but I would choose imagination. Imagination is what makes an artist an artist. It is what makes it so the same opera can be performed for hundreds of years but still be as relevant and fresh as it was the first time it was performed. For me, without imagination, there isn’t much value for the performance besides being background music and even then it wouldn’t be particularly valuable. Also, as a stage director trying to work with a performer who hasn’t nurtured their imagination and isn’t prepared to use their imagination but is waiting for me to feed them everything is a drag. It wastes time, it sucks the energy from a rehearsal and keeps a production from reaching its greatest potential. This great potential is reached when each artist contributes to the overall product that couldn’t be reached by one imagination alone.
The role of an artist
One of the traditional roles associated with artists is to be a person that sees the world in a unique way or are more sensitive than the average person. This doesn’t mean the average person can’t become and artist. I believe anyone in some way can develop an artistic mindset. The challenge is unlocking and honing your observational skills and expressing the truths you find while observing the world around you in a way that is true to who you are as an individual. It means being more concerned with asking questions and exploring possibilities than setting definitions and limits. It means being vulnerable and sharing your discoveries with the world. This, of course, is a theoretical discussion that could be talked about endlessly. The hope though is that through this course you will become a more sensitive, deliberate, and expressive artist and not just a technician.
Training an artist vs. training a technician.
First, there is nothing wrong with being a technician. Technique can be an important aspect of unlocking expressive potential. By making the ultimate goal that of becoming an artist versus becoming a technician seems to alter the training process though. The overly simplified way of describing this difference is that with an artist the teaching goal seems to be one of facilitating someone learning to think for themselves whereas with a technician, we are training them to do what they are told.
In this course, a good deal of what we will discuss will be technique-oriented. The techniques being taught have the end goal of helping you to unlock your imagination and body. You will be gaining tools that will allow you to express your own unique perspective of the world. If as you start to apply the techniques they seem strange, odd, or limiting then I ask you simply to give them a diligent try. Often something can feel strange or wrong just because it isn’t a habit yet. Watch videos and compare your performances between when you do what is suggested and when you don’t. You will find that with time and practice the principles and techniques you will be taught in this course will free you to become an artist who is technically proficient and artistically engaging.
Would you rather have a blank stage or fully realistic stage?
I was asked this question by my directing mentor as I started graduate school, “Would you rather have a blank stage with a single light bulb or a fully realistic stage with all the bells and whistles?” The set with more impressive production values seemed to be the obvious choice. What would you choose?
Over the coming years, he convinced me to believe that each added physical element on stage took away that much more freedom to utilize imagination by both the performing artist and the audience. The imagination can come up with things that are much more wonderful and much more terrible than anything that is real. A blank stage is a blank canvas where the artist is free to imagine anything and so is the audience. With imagination, you don’t need anything beyond a performer and a light source and an audience. Conversely, you could have an amazing set but if the performer doesn’t have an imagination the audience will be impressed for five minutes by the set and bored the rest of the time by the performer.
So is it either you have it or you don’t then? If I don’t have an imagination should I just quit?
Everyone who functions in normal society is born with imagination but most of us are taught to lock it away behind very tall walls. The question isn’t one of having an imagination but one of what you need to do to unlock it, nurture it, and then build the confidence to show it to the world. Stop letting others tell you that you don’t have an imagination or that you aren’t creative. Stop telling that to yourself too. Let’s get to work in helping you rediscover what has always been there!