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Emotion & The Actor

“The actor should not play a part. Like the Aeolian harps that used to be hung in the trees to be played only by the breeze, the actor should be an instrument played upon by the character he depicts.” – Nazimova Alla

I believe that the best actors don’t show that they’re “acting”.   If actors draw attention to themselves they’re probably over-acting, pushing, playing the emotion, or holding on to emotion. When actors do this they are not listening to their fellow actors but ‘working alone’ focused solely on themselves. Specifically, actors who draw attention to themselves draw attention to either their ‘emotion’ ie. ‘Look how angry I can be or how sad I can be, look at how much I can feel.’ Or they draw attention to their physical transformation.
If an audience is solely focused on an actor’s performance, the actor is more than likely ‘over-acting’. His attention is on his performance and not on his fellow actor. When an actor focuses solely on himself,
that is solely on his performance in this way, he commits, in my view, one of the biggest sins in acting. He uses the profession of ‘acting’ as a platform to express himself usually with an emphasis on emotion.

Acting is not about expressing yourself or your emotions. Acting is about expressing and communicating the life of the character in the play. Actors often use the play and the character they’re playing as an opportunity to express themselves. This is not only wrong but it’s in contradiction to what needs to happen, which is this:

“The character has the opportunity to express himself or herself through you – the actor.” The character needs the actor to express himself as opposed to the actor needing the character to express him/herself. This over-emphasis on the actor’s need at the expense of the character’s need seems to be the aim of most acting schools where the actor is encouraged to focus on himself, specifically on his or her ability to become emotional.

Shakespeare said: “The play’s the thing.” He didn’t say: “The actor’s the thing.” The actor is in servitude of the character and of the play. The actor needs to humble himself to the demands of the play and communicate the playwright’s intention.   If he does that …
he has done his job!  © Peter Sardi

  1. Nicholas StribakosNicholas Stribakos12-09-2014

    Peter it’s great to read this great stuff. It’s a constant reminder what the actors and the playwrights role are and of course without one another there wouldn’t be a story to tell and how it needs to be told

  2. AmberAmber12-11-2014

    Great article! Being “truth”ful. To yourself, the scene and your journey 🙂

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