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Should You Share Your Motivation?

By • Feb 17th, 2010 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Too many actors try to perform, both on stage and off of it, in a bubble. They don’t choose to interact with their fellow cast members, nor do the invest much in the venue in which they appear. Only their own ego and image are maintained within their head, and whatever lies outside of it is a mere distraction.

This is the wrong way to be, (though sadly it is on the increase in community theatre.) However, there are some aspects of how one performs that should be locked away, and not shared with others.

Mainly, those things we use to motivate ourselves. The intangibles. The tricks, if you will. Those perceptions that give the extra life, the magic to our performances. (Many of which I have talked about in these columns, in a general way.)

When something works, and we share it with someone else, it loses a bit of its luster. The temptation we provide others to criticize us, or to at least pick our ideas apart, is too great for even our most well meaning friends and colleagues to resist. And if we are honest with ourselves, we may find it difficult to refrain from asking questions of other people’s artistic tricks when we hear of them.

If you read my writings here, or on my blog, you will know that I believe actors should constantly be collaborating with one another about how to do a scene, or what the relationship between two characters ought to be. I am not in favor of acting in a vacuum. At the same time, always hold on to your most precious cargo.

Share and discuss, as I do, the techniques and exercises you may use to arrive at certain decisions you have to make during the course of creating a character. But don’t let others, even in the cast, know what exactly each of those decisions ends up being.

And unless you have a very good director, do not let them know either. For while a micro-managing director may not otherwise feel he needs to comment or issue demands on a certain aspect of your performance, your pronouncement of what you are doing internally in order to make a scene work may just open you up to directions that you cannot live with for your character.

Theatre is a community experience, wherein you must interact emotionally, spiritually, and physically with others. But as in anything else you do, save something for yourself.

A little bit of mystery is, after all, also part of what separates a good actor from a great one.

This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4717.

is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

2 Responses »

  1. Ty ,

    As I don’t know the actors that have given rise to your first comment about working in a bubble I wont say that isn’t true. What I will say is that some actors, and in community theater I see no reason for it, want to just come in , do their job and go home. Now if they are acting in bubble thats just wrong. You cant act and not take into account what others are doing around you on stage.

    As to sharing your motivation. I agree that it isn’t any business of the other actors , but if a director asks I think you should tell him. He may have a better idea or he may agree that yours is better and help you to clarify it and make it clearer.

    I personally have had a director ask me “why did you make that cross” the day after we had blocked it the first time. My response “because you told me to do it”. I later found a motivation for the cross but he never asked me why I did anything again.

  2. Something happened to the first post.

    Ty ,

    As I don’t know the actors that have given rise to your first comment about working in a bubble I wont say that isn’t true. What I will say is that some actors, and in community theater I see no reason for it, want to just come in , do their job and go home. Now if they are acting in bubble thats just wrong. You cant act and not take into account what others are doing around you on stage.

    As to sharing your motivation. I agree that it isn’t any business of the other actors , but if a director asks I think you should tell him. He may have a better idea or he may agree that yours is better and help you to clarify it and make it clearer.

    I personally have had a director ask me “why did you make that cross” the day after we had blocked it the first time. My response “because you told me to do it”. I later found a motivation for the cross but he never asked me why I did anything again.