Most of us enter the acting life with certain assumptions about what acting is and what we need to do to give a successful performance. Some of our assumptions are inaccurate, and we need to let go of them in order to make progress in our craft.
Here are some of what I call “the myths of acting”, in no particular order. Do you recognize any of them?
- If I make what I’m doing too “big”, the audience will think I look foolish or stupid.
- If I don’t make what I’m doing “big” enough, the audience will be bored.
- My job is to be interesting. If I don’t entertain the audience, they will be bored and leave.
- My job is to become a complete character who is, by definition, someone very different from myself.
- I need to make decisions about who my character is and how he feels as soon as I can, so that I can really explore and develop those aspects of my character through the rest of the rehearsal period.
- The important thing is to figure out what my character is like: is he funny or straight-laced, stingy or generous, angry or happy, etc.
- I need to make logical and clear transitions from one emotion to the next.
- I need to “play” my character’s feelings.
- If I don’t get what I need from another actor to make the necessary emotional transitions, then I can’t do the scene well. The other actor has to give me the right stuff.
- I’m afraid to really show my emotions, because I’ll either look stupid or be rejected, but the truth is that I don’t really need to feel those things, I just need to convince the audience that I do, and that’s something completely different.
- My primary job as an actor is to say my lines, and to say them the right way.
- There is a right way to say each line.
- The important thing is to get to a finished, polished performance, and everything I do during rehearsals is in service of that.
- My job is to say my line when it is my turn to speak. When the other actor has finished talking, it’s my turn.
- If I take too long a pause in the middle of my line, the audience will lose interest.
- There is a “right” way to play every character, and I need to find it, or I will fail.