Pardon Me, But Your Teaching Is Getting In The Way Of My Acting
Does studying the craft of acting squelch one's natural instincts?
A young man walks into an acting class for the first time. Though he’s new to acting classes, he’s already somewhat of an accomplished actor. Prior to taking an acting class of any kind, he’s acted in dozens of productions in theater, film, and television. He introduces himself to the class, and then...
As artists, we usually make our way to discovering our talents without a teacher pointing the way. We find that we are actually good at something without having known that there’s a process or craft to it. We just kind of feel our way through it, and do it. This is how we first become aware of our instinctive nature. You’ve met those people, right? They sit at a piano and bang out a song off the top of their heads. You ask if they ever studied, and they answer, “Nope! I taught myself.” Or the actor who is cast as the lead in a major motion picture who gets nominated for an Academy Award. You’re rooting for them because you absolutely feel they deserve it after seeing the film yourself, having been floored by their performance. Then you find out, they never acted a day before in their lives. Some will believe that these kinds of people are simply supernaturally gifted.
But are they? What if the truth is that they are simply good at trusting their instincts?
Back to the young man in the acting class. He’s heard it said in the past that if he’s this good now, on his own, imagine how much better he’d be if he studied with one of the great acting teachers! He’s studious, he’s willing, yet after a short time he suddenly loses that trust in himself, in following his gut. There are rules now. He wants to apply those rules because of the tales he’s heard of all those iconic actors that have studied with his teacher, or poured themselves into this particular method. He begins to invest in trusting the teacher more than himself. And now, he finds that he can’t act his way out of a wet paper bag. He is no longer the actor he was before he took this class.
The college degrees, the conservatories, the private instruction with a well touted acting coach, can they really make you a better actor? Maybe. But then again, maybe not. I see it this way… there are some strong minded confident kids in this world. These kids, when they become students, are grounded enough to not allow a teacher’s credentials to squelch what they already feel they can do on their own. Then, there are teacher’s who are extremely skilled at not imposing their beliefs of what acting is “supposed” to be to their students. They can gauge how in tune a student is with his/her instincts, and guide them accordingly. But these teachers are rare.
Learning is a wonderful experience at any age. I am deeply indebted to several of my acting coaches, especially my high school drama teacher. I am not suggesting to forego formal acting training. If one thing, the consistency of a daily, or weekly class alone will provide a great amount of confidence in getting the character off the page to the stage, but no one can teach you what is already innately there to begin with. They may very well squelch it, (as unconscious as that may be on their part.) Let us not forget our first teacher, the one inside of us all. It’s all we’ll have to depend on at the end of the day.