The idea or concept of what the moment is supposed to be is NEVER more important than the reality of what is actually happening.
This topic is so important that I am going to very direct in this blog. I do not want the message to be lost in any stories or analogies. Let's jump in...
The audience has no idea or expectation that a specific moment is supposed to be delivered in a certain way and if the actor is focused on delivering a moment based on the idea or the concept of what the moment is supposed to be, rather than living truthfully in the moment, then what the audience experiences is a moment that is emotionally disconnected, disproportionate and unjustified from the moment before. (In other words, they perceive it to be bad acting)
This is a shortcoming of actors that place more importance on getting emotional instead of living truthfully in the moment. This is a shortcoming of actors that feel it's more important to demonstrate what the scene is supposed to be about instead of simply sharing a truthful response based on what is actually happening on stage in that moment.
When an actor plays a moment based on the concept of what the moment should be, the audience often experiences that moment as being fake, untruthful or over-acted. They understand that they are being presented with an idea as opposed to experience the truth.
There is a balance though. It's not all or nothing. When a script or Director obligates the actor to a specific reaction or emotional state, the actor (and frankly, their scene partner, too) have a responsibility to fulfill this obligation. But, if the moments before the emotionally charged moment do not justify "the moment" to be at the level of the idea/concept, then if the actor leaps over the truth and pushes their emotional state to the highest level of intensity to match the concept, then the audience is jarred from the imaginary world and slapped in the face again with "bad concept acting".
So if a moment requires a deep emotional intensity, but the moments before are dull, then the actor should not slam him foot on the emotional gas pedal and push to deliver the fullest emotional life of the concept of the moment. Rather, the actor should gently tap the gas just a bit to slightly elevate their emotional state just enough to experience a minor increased emotionality. The audience will perceive this minor increased emotionality as an appropriate emotional heightening to the reality they are observing - anything more will appear as fake.
When actors put more value and importance on playing concepts instead of realities, the audience suffers.
But...if you must deliver on the concept, then you MUST start the process long before the moment arrives so when it does, you've appropriately elevated your emotional state little by little, to justify the big moment. It's when the actor fails to live moment to moment & then leaps from their reality over to their concept that they turn the audience from active emotional participants in the character's journey into disconnected observers of some actor trying to present to them and act out a part.
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I hope this post has inspired you in some small way. I look forward to reading your comments.
Bye for now and Stay Safe My Fellow Travelers.
See you inside the Toolbox.