The Actor Learning Journey – An Outline | An actor prepares|by Camilla Waldman


An actor preparesAn actor prepares ”–Konstantin Stanislavski

Craft maximises talent”–Robert McKee Story

These two quotes have inspired my thinking. Both belong to wonderful writings and both speak to the craft of acting. The Stanislavski work is a detailed account of actor-process and the result of Stanislavski’s research with fellow-actors, both as an actor himself, a director and a teacher. 

While McKee speaks to script-writing, I believe this vision – developing our craft in whichever aspect of creative endeavour, supports our talents and creative process – is an empowering one. I was renewed as an actor when I came into contact with this thinking. The artistic journey can sometimes feel mysterious and hard-to-pin down; I was restored by engaging with craft skills. And as a teacher in speaking to the growth of our craft skills, I find actors respond as I had done, with a mixture of relief and great enthusiasm. Life lived is not enough – while our lives are our well-spring – it’s not enough to be a professional actor. We must learn about our craft.

There is a lot that has been written and shared that can enable actors as they grow their Actor Toolboxes, if I can describe this gathering of craft skills in this way. It’s also useful to read and research, and share with other actors – one pathway may facilitate your creation of character for a particular story, and as you expand in your awareness, you may make use of others – different characters, different mediums, may ask for different approaches.

And I can’t say enough about preparation. An actor prepares. The technique word is one that is often accompanied by varying fears about appearing technical and dry, lacking spontaneity. I would like to offer that if the actor has prepared well and the framework of understanding – of the character and the story they inhabit – is solid and detailed, this creates a channel for the actor to immerse themselves in the character’s world, strengthens belief in the imagined circumstance, and guides the intense experience that is performance, in whichever medium. 

In the concept – THINK – DO – FEEL – the actor thinks in detail about the character and the story, researches and discovers the character’s intentions and action – their behaviour; then they set about inhabiting character and their behaviour. The commitment to the action and the character’s behaviour supports the emotional channels. The HOW is not specified. Don’t worry too much about the HOW I find myself saying, that will accompany the thinking and the action. There is a multitude of micro-expressions the human being makes as they communicate. Trust this is happening when the thinking is clear and the commitment intense

The actor is an agent who invests purposeful, creative action.

Purposeful action is action
guided by thought
and thought is the power to create…”
– Lee Strasberg

‘Stepping into your Actor space’ is an action I find empowering. It feels like a work room, a place that is no longer deeply personal, striving for a neutral place inside. It feels focussed and dynamic. It acknowledges the actor’s craft. Bringing attention to the body for a moment, grounding through the feet and aligning the spine – rolling up and down the spine, releasing tension in the lower back, jaw, neck, shoulders and upper chest-tightness; activating conscious breath – these are ways for us to enter this space, this Actor Office – where creativity and discipline can work together. An alert, focussed place in the actor’s body and breath, energised and ready to respond. 

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