Acting 101 for Singers: Day 1, Topic 5
Have you ever gotten up to perform only to realize you don’t know what you are supposed to do with your body? You try to do what you think you have seen other people do, but it just feels like an awkward first day where you are trying to act calm, cool, and collected, but you are anything but that. This type of performance isn’t pleasant for anyone. After these instances, the first three questions most acting coaches will ask are “Who are you?”, “Where are you?” and “who are you talking to?” Inevitably the performer then looks stunned and confused as if they are waking up from a coma and don’t know who or where they are.
Who are you? Where are you? Who are you talking to?
These may seem like rudimental questions. And at the start, basic answers to these questions will serve as a beginning. In the long run, though, we need better answers to these questions. If I ask, “Who are you?” how would you answer? Then if I wasn’t satisfied with the driver’s license type of information and wanted you to tell me who you truly are, what would you say? What is it that makes you the unique person you are?
The better you are at identifying who you are as an individual, the better you will find your character and how they are unique. Keep asking “Why?” and “What does that mean?”. Try to dig to the center of who you are and what makes you tick. Then, do the same thing for your character. To identify a person also requires that you note who they are at a specific moment. Are you constantly the same person moment to moment? Of course not. We are creatures of change and evolution. You can talk about yourself in terms of things that are true all the time, most of the time, some of the time, or none of the time. Be careful not to get sucked into labeling someone (including yourself) with a trait that is not so much a constant as a continuum you slide along.
Where are you? It does mean physical location, but it can also mean so many other things. How does this character view themselves concerning their city, state, country, world, or universe?
Who are you talking to? Break down how your character views this other person they are talking to. If they are talking to themselves, break down how the person is viewing themselves at that moment. Which version of themselves are they seeing? Whether you are talking to yourself, another person on stage, or an imaginary character, you have to have a clear idea of who that other person is and where they are in physical relation to you. If they are imaginary and supposed to be in your head, I would suggest taking them out of your head and placing them in front of you in your imagination. When you are practicing, use a real person or an object to act as a placeholder so that you can learn where their eyes would be, what it feels like to communicate with someone at that distance, and what their reactions would be to what you are saying.
The process of exploration and discovery
Though we often teach in education as if there is one correct answer, that usually isn’t the case in the arts. The goal is to find the right fit for you. The key to making actual progress is making decisions and amending those decisions until you arrive at something that feels true and genuine. Invest in a good pencil and an even better eraser.
The biggest pitfalls for a performer is that they either have too many options and not enough decisions made, are waiting for someone to tell them what to do, or are just running on natural charisma and talent. None of which are good enough to produce quality work consistently.
“What is the right answer” vs. “What are the best questions”
Stop looking for the “right” answer and instead focus on asking the best questions and exploring the possibilities. Explore what could be and not worry about what should be. What is the performance you would want to watch? That is the performance you should be trying to create!
Do the “Who am I paper” 1.0!
This is a paper that could and should get amended regularly. It’s a living document that is a worksheet for you to discover how you identify yourself and what you think makes you who you are. Try it out!
Links to other articles in Acting 101 for Singers Day 1
Topic 7: Lines – It’s about stress!
Topic 10: Where does imagination come from?