Every moment you take before you perform is sacred.
Larry Moss, who we had the privilege of interviewing earlier in the year, dedicates a whole chapter to The Intent to live’ to The Moment before. That’s because the moment BEFORE you start a scene is arguably more important than the scene/monologue/conversation itself. This begs the question: is there a way to act …?? Acting is both difficult and mysterious, making it both frustrating and exciting.
Acting is not a switch. It is impossible to turn it off or on. This will not result in good, truthful, or even better acting. Genuine and grounded work seems to come out of nowhere. It grows from within and manifests itself in unexpected ways. This is what I find the most rewarding part of acting. When something happens, it surprises you, and you suddenly don’t recognize yourself. You often come out of the other side without knowing how it happened. You didn’t think about breathing, I bet. It was there. As it happens in life, it just happened.
For a moment, focus on your breath. Feel it moving in and out. You can even force it in and outside. What did you feel tense? How tight did your neck, vocal cords and face become? Instead of using an inhale/exhale function, practice breathing as a release. Feel tension melt away, and stress and anxiety dissolve every time you take a fresh breath. This will leave behind calmness and focus. This is meditation. It’s about checking in and releasing, then moving forward.
This can be done before you set foot on the set, during auditions, as a wake-up call, or when you go to bed. As an anchor, use your breath to take in the environment, people, and climate around you. Instead of trying to block distractions, embrace them, and you will see them disintegrate.
Drink a power drink of acting to boost your energy levels. This is your time, anywhere from 3 seconds to 5 mins, when it’s you and the work. This is your chance to get a lead-in and a warm-up. I know actors who enjoy having a good time on set. They chat up the 2nd AC until they get to “ACTION”, then they ‘turn on’. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t work. A runway and a launchpad are essential to get started. We don’t want you to straighten your spine and then put on an accent and a mask. You won’t be able to do much with the work if you keep going and waiting for someone else to take action.
The real work is in the moment before. You can create an imaginary world, centre yourself appropriately, and engage your emotional triggers. And then, your performance comes alive.
Oh, I forgot about them!
You can’t go wrong with your comrades in setting yourself up for solid acting and solid fun. Remember your scene partner. You are there to collaborate, not against the other and certainly not apart. Look into their eyes, focus on their breathing, and connect with them. They will be grateful that you have their back. Sometimes, I have to look at my scene partner and let them take control. Acting is reacting. Acting means listening. Let them drive the car and let everything (your prep) follow.