A little something about the “feeling” of Acting. And no, it’s not about you “feeling it”. Mamet says in one of his books, “no one cares what you’re feeling”. Well, not quite true, but he does have a point in that an actor absorbed in what they are trying to feel is usually devoid of many other important things such as communication with other actors/characters and the audience.
What I’m talking about here is what it “feels like” when you’re acting. Should you “feel like” you’re getting it right? Should you “feel like” you’re floating? Should you “feel like” you’re another human being? Is any of this possible or necessary.
Technical training should get you to one place in particular though, and that is that it should feel easy. That’s often a very difficult thing for an untrained actor to understand. It used to feel like hard work. It should feel either physically or emotionally exhausting, but now it doesn’t. I’m not trying to remember lines, I’m not acting in fear of my audience or of a mistake. I’m fluid. The work has been done and I’m able to trust it, and the technique so fully that I no longer need to concern myself with anything other than the moment of performance, whether it be a piece of realism or something more abstract or physical in terms of genre. It’s sometimes difficult for an actor to let go of that need to feel like they’re working hard, because working hard WAS the definition of PERFORMING. Training should change your definition of performing and how performing feels to you.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything” is usually the best response I can get back once all the training has been done. The only one that’s better is, “it doesn’t matter how I’m feeling.” What’s important is that the training has changed the way you feel when acting and moved that feeling away from crisis and panic and hard work and into something much more fluid and open. We are seeking a state of being where creativity can potentially happen constantly, not just in oases or isolated “good” moments in the performance. And in that feeling, yes we often feel oddly like we are someone else, dealing with someone else’s problems and trying to get what someone else wants and that makes us think thoughts and feel sensations that don’t belong to us. That’s a normal result of character work. There’s nothing in it to be afraid of and it’s not magical. It’s an imaginative leap within you as an artist.
If you’re working hard, you’re probably not working right. If you’re exhausted at the end of it, you probably don’t need to be and it certainly doesn’t mean you did a good job just because you’re pooped.
You’ve done a good job when the audience leaves that theatre wondering.