The Invisible Actor

“Don’t get caught acting.”

“Be. Just Be. Don’t act, just BE.”

As an actor, especially if you are working in film, you cannot “show.” You must “be.”

Here is a clip which illustrates my idea of INVISIBLE ACTING: It’s of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. I can’t say I have seen the film, or the play, or even have read any Tennessee Williams. But, I know what great acting looks like. I can see truth. And, if you are like me, you will be be hooked from the start of the scene. You can see Stanley thinking. The non-verbal acting he (Brando) is doing is stellar. And, here is the illusion. Brando is thinking Stanley Kowalski’s thoughts. At least that is what I am imagining. And that is what I aspire to do. A transformational actor gets “behind the eyes and into the skin” of the character so fully, that the actor becomes the character. Then, the character lives, responds, pursues, and behaves on a moment-to-moment time signature to create reality under imaginary circumstances. As a coach told me once, “If was playing Hamlet, I would not imagine how I would respond in his situation. I would imagine how a 16th century son of a Norwegian King would respond.” The character might be in you. But you are not the character. We don’t want to see you. We want to see the character.

As far as “acting revolutions” go, Method Acting (an offshoot of the Stanislavsky System), as pioneered by Lee Strasberg, changed the style of American film acting, and continues to influence how actors approach a character and their “performance.” And, not to ignore other masters, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, and Uta Hagen are also considered major influencers of modern acting.

“A great acting performance!” “The Academy Award for Best Actor!” Yes, actors ACT, but we really love it when we see the character. That is the trick! An actor, when equipped with a vibrant imagination and a solid technique, can transport us with the help of a great story (and a great director, etc.).

Here is another great performance by two actors from the film Dead Man Walking.

Technically, as an actor, you must never “show” us or “indicate” what you are doing or feeling. Really DO IT or REALLY FEEL IT (if emotion comes, welcome it, but don’t fake it if it doesn’t). If you think the character might cry in a particular scene, or the script tells you to, your task/action/objective will never be TO CRY. Humans don’t go through their life with TO CRY on their to do list. If, perhaps, your character is grieving over a loved one, maybe you are “yearning (there is your verb) to dance with him one more time,” which cannot happen because he just died, and this realization, in the moment, might lead you to tears.

I don’t mean to digress into an acting technique overview, but I cannot talk about what invisible acting is without pointing out what is isn’t.

~ David S. Hogan

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