Harnessing Your Subconscious: Layering a Character

Okay, back to the acting tools.  At long last.

The recipe for this yummy lasagne can be found at http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/lasagna/

The tools I am introducing you to are simply ways to input good, focused, intentional data into the computer that is your subconscious.  Practical ways of using the open/closed modes of creativity.  Your subconscious, brilliant synthesizer that it is, discards what doesn’t work and keeps what does.  You don’t have to tell it what to keep most of the time, not that it would really understand anyway.  It just knows what works in context.

Give it plenty of data, and it will know what works in the puzzle that is your character and what doesn’t.

But remember, it does understand frequency.  It equates frequency with desire, and it considers your desires to be more important than what works.  So if you do a scene the same way every time, it will accept your choice.  It will try to compensate as much as it can for any choices that don’t work, but it has limited abilities in this regard, just as it does with your golf swing.  Make a lousy golf swing, and your subconscious can’t make it perfect.  It will just help to give you better results than you would have gotten if your subconscious hadn’t interfered on your behalf.

So how do you run a scene over and over in rehearsals without encountering the frequency problem?

Simple.  You keep coming at the scene from different angles.  You intentionally avoid doing it the same way every time during the first half of the rehearsal period.

If you can successfully “stay in the moment” – which, as I’ve said elsewhere, is much harder to do than you probably imagine – then by definition, what you’re doing will always be different.  But “staying in the moment” in the first rehearsals isn’t enough.  Later, yes.  But early on?  No.

A really interesting, creative, complex characterization is composed of “layers”.  When we talk about people being complicated, we liken them to onions.  Every time you peel away another layer, you find some different and unexpected aspect to their character underneath.

lasagne 4As an actor, you build a character in reverse, by putting down layer after layer.  You’re taking an unfinished piece of furniture and doing some complex faux finish work.  You sand it, you prime it, you sand again, you paint, you wipe, you paint again, you distress it, etc.  But you put down those layers one at a time.  You examine different aspects of your character’s relationships, needs, worries, desires, etc., individually – with your conscious brain (aided by your subconscious) – but you let your subconscious put the layers together.

When you are examining the components of a given layer, you are free to ignore the other layers.  When you are able to do this, you are giving high quality, focused attention to whatever you’re working on.  Whatever you’re ignoring this time, you’ll pay attention to some other time!

To read Using Tools to Build Layers, go here.




3 thoughts on “Harnessing Your Subconscious: Layering a Character

  1. Pingback: Harnessing Your Subconscious: Using Tools to Build Layers | Spacious Acting™

  2. Hi there,

    I noticed that you are using my photo of lasagna. I’m delighted that you like it enough to post it here on your site. I ask that if you would like to continue to use it that you provide attribution next to the photo in the form of a working link to the source recipe on my site, which is:


    Thank you so much for your consideration!



  3. So glad to know, and even gladder to know of your website! I’m a big fan of its presentation, with all of the photos showing various steps. When cooking a new recipe, it’s nice to have a way to “check in” to make sure that everything is going well, and the photos help point the way. I know that online recipes are the way of the future, but I get a little overwhelmed by the multitude of recipes on sites like food.com. I’m exploring cooking more and more lately, and I have the feeling I am going to be relying on your website a good deal (I’ll be subscribing once I get back from some wonderful theater at Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires.)

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