An Actor’s Life Objectified
July 12, 2019
Heart of Meisner Level 1
October 31, 2019

“Take Risks” & “Be Interesting”! A rant.

I have heard these two sentiments uttered on many occasions in classrooms and workshops and videos. I am not here to repeat these sentiments because I don’t believe they are particularly helpful pieces of advice for any actor.

These “words of wisdom” while well-intentioned are at times lazy but moreover unavoidably flawed.

Mainly the reason why it’s said so often, as far as I can tell, is that on the surface it looks like that is what great actors are doing — taking risks and making interesting choices. It’s a superficial observation at best. These actors I can all but guarantee you did not do the things they did for the sole purpose of being risky or interesting. If they had it would likely have come off as superficial. This is why this token piece of instruction to actors is so poisonous. Let’s tackle why that is.

What is risky? What is interesting? How will you know that you are being that? How will you know that others will know that you are being that? Is what you find interesting what someone else will find interesting? Is your risky the same as a casting director’s risky?

The first massive elephant in the room with this nonsense of being interesting and taking risks is the fact that it’s completely unknowable. You will never know if what you are doing is either of these qualities, which is reason enough that we should question this commonly thrown around jargon.

The next thing is what happens when the actor tries to be interesting and risky because it brings up the questions inferred above, “what would be risky?”, “what would be interesting?”. A contrived choice is the most likely outcome since the typical reaction is to think up something removed from the context of the scene — what is being done is for its own sake. In addition, if you have to “think” it up, it has to come from something that you have seen or experienced in the past which means it has to be contrived on some level because it isn’t responding to what actually is.

Intentionally taking risks or attempting to be interesting does not lead to anything original or spontaneous which is what the advice seems to be implying and yet operates in contradiction to.

For me, there is a fundamental issue in the actor’s approach and training which has created the presence of this token advice. Much of which has to do with trying to get it “right”. Which is a topic for another time. To make it short, I see so many actors who are so concerned with getting it right because to a large degree they have been indoctrinated into the view and approach that a “right” actually exists through the various methods and techniques that have been reinforced. The actor closes off and is incapable of attention and taking spontaneous action (which are the “risky” and “interesting” things great actors do).

So if you want to take risks, act on those impulses that rise up. Don’t ignore them. Those hunches, those intuitions about your character that move you, that excite you, that give you chills… When you allow yourself to act on those parts that aren’t necessarily rational, you are daring to show who you really are and that’s the greatest risk of all.

If you want to be interesting pay real attention and really respond to what is going on in the scene. In Meisner training, you discover how fascinating it is when someone is actually absorbed in what is happening. Watching someone perform a seemingly mundane activity with sincere investment becomes a riveting spectacle. Really talk, really listen, really do what you’re doing.

You’ll be so interested in what’s happening you won’t have time to think about whether you’re being interesting, but that’s exactly what you will be.

In this light, it occurs to me that this whole business of being genuinely interesting or risky is more of a byproduct as opposed to premeditated action. Something that may only be measured and weighed after the fact and utterly subjective. It means that as actors we can simply focus on playing the moment at hand with full commitment and allow the rest to take care of itself. I think we can all take great comfort and relief in that possibility and finally put this tired notion to rest.

Evan C. Schulte

 My early years of training as an actor were met with moderate and humble successes.  I was considered for many great roles, my peers and teachers were active admirers of my work and I would even dare say I was a ‘pretty good’ actor among many talented individuals.  Still there was something that was missing. I often struggled to find who or what I was as an artist in this medium we call acting.  I wanted to, as they say, “lose myself” in a role.  The problem was that I never really knew what that was or what that meant.  Perhaps for a brief moment I would touch upon it only for it to disappear just as quickly.

 Again and again I would come up against this invisible wall, frustrated, angry and ever doubtful that I might never know true meaning in my craft.

Meisner was that missing piece.  A training that was often marginalized in my education up to that point and even ridiculed.  I discovered through my own experience that the technique was and is still greatly misunderstood.  To know Meisner is to experience it, which is where much of the confusion comes from.  All I can say is that it freed me -- took me beyond myself and everything I thought I knew about acting and in that space I discovered what might be considered a true act of creation and maybe even art.

Evan has been engaged in the art and craft of acting for over twenty years.  A former graduate of SchoolCreative and The True Acting Institute, he is an insightful and passionate teacher of the Meisner Technique which he learned under the instruction and guidance from renowned teacher, Larry Silverberg.

Evan believes in teaching through collaboration, inspiration and joy above all else, and in helping actors discover who they are as artists and creators.

I invite you to join us.


Evan C. Schulte
Founder & Instructor
Evan C. Schulte

Evan has been engaged in the art and craft of acting for over twenty years.  A former graduate of SchoolCreative and The True Acting Institute, he is an insightful and passionate teacher of the Meisner Technique which he learned under the instruction and guidance from renowned teacher, Larry Silverberg.

Evan believes in teaching through collaboration, inspiration and joy above all else, and in helping actors discover who they are as artists and creators.
The Players Creative Company believes that great acting is more than applied techniques and intellectual concepts.  We believe that great acting can be a transcendent experience, that can take us beyond ourselves, enriching all of our lives.

 This goes beyond technique.  This goes into the deepest part of ourselves.  A part that we rarely peer into.  A part that is full, alive and present.  A part that we seek to awaken.
    
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