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Embedded History That Triggers a Response

In a moment, I'm going to ask you to stop reading, look around and take in all that you can see. When I ask you to do this, please do it. Don't just read on to finish the blog. By stopping to look around when I ask you to, you'll quickly understand what the technique of Endowments is all about and how it will help you in your work on stage and in front of the camera.

In life, the stuff around us has history, meaning and often times, will trigger memories, thoughts, feelings, action, and a shift in our mood or behavior. Think about the phone or computer you are reading this blog on right now. When and where did you buy it? Was it a gift? How long have you had it? What do you love about it? What frustrates you about it? If you lost it, how would you react? What kind of a mood would you be in if you dropped it on the floor and it broke? How might you be triggered if someone stole it?

It's highly likely that you've experienced a few responses just now because of your connection to your phone or computer. So, there is history, meaning, importance, and a relationship ENDOWED (aka Embedded) into and onto the phone or computer.

OK, so now the fun part. When I write "GO", I'd like you to stop reading and look around the room. Take your time. Look at the pictures on the walls. Look at your furniture. Look at your clothes and accessories. Look at your most expensive personal item. Look at the newest thing you own. Look at the object that was given to you years ago by a loved one. As you look at these objects, ask yourself a series of questions like:

  • When did I first see it?

  • When did I buy or receive it?

  • Who gave it to me and what is my relationship with them?

  • How hard did I have to work to earn the money to buy it?

  • What would I feel if it was broken, lost or stolen?

  • When I hold/use/wear it, how does it make me feel and how does it change me?

  • You can think up many other questions on your own too.

OK. Are you ready to look? Take 5-10 minutes to scan the room and then come back to this blog.

Ready, Set...GO!

Welcome back (assuming you took the time to look around) - How was that experience for you? What memories, thoughts, images and feelings surfaced? Did any of your items trigger a bit of a daydream and if yes, where did it take you? What you experienced just now are all the triggers that exist in your personal life with the objects all around you that have history, meaning, value, importance ENDOWED (embedded) into and onto them. And it is this Endowed history that is so important to understand for actors.

Let's walk across the bridge from our personal life over to the world of acting & pretend that we are on the set during a performance. All around the set are props, furniture, costumes, and other people. What would happen to your character if every single item on that set actually had a personalized history? What if the script called for your character to be in a heated argument with their spouse and during that argument, the other actor accidentally bumped into the dresser and your watch fell on the floor and broke? Well, if the watch was a gift from the character's grandfather before he passed away, it would be reasonable to think that the broken watch would trigger a heightened negative reaction that could feed the intensity of the argument.

The point here is this: if you take time to Endow history, meaning, personalizations into and onto every single prop, piece of furniture, costume and yes, even the other people, then every where you look while on set you will be surrounded by images, memories, feelings, relationships, etc that can be used as an acting craft technique to connect you at a deeper level to the character, the location, the circumstances and the relationships. So, no matter where you look, no matter what you touch, no matter what you use, everything that you relate to has the potential to trigger you and feed you to help you do your job.

Questions I am often asked by actors that first learn this technique are about what is and what is not acceptable to Endow into/onto the props/set/costume/people/etc. They want to know if it all needs to be based on the imaginary circumstanced of the script. Well, here's the short answer...NO. Like all other technique, use what works for you. Don't force anything. Trust your body.

You can do whatever you want to do. You can Endow everything around you with:

  • Real history from your personal life that has nothing to do with the script

  • 100% imaginary circumstances that did not happen in your real life and also have nothing to do with the script (as long as you believe your own inventions and they trigger a response that supports the story, then it's absolutely acceptable that the Endowed history is 100% imaginary)

  • 100% imaginary based on the character and the circumstance in the script

Let's think about how we can use this.

Let's pretend that you have an emotional obligation to be nostalgic and melancholy. That's how the other characters actually describe you in the dialogue, so that's how you must be. It's not up for a debate or interpretation. You must be nostalgic and melancholy. Well, what if you ENDOW into the College Hoodie Sweatshirt you are wearing as your costume that it's from your university alma mater and you used to wear it with pride when you were on campus. You used to be in a Sorority/Fraternity, you have lost touch with your sisters/brothers, you're living alone now and your career is far from what you hoped for. There's a stain on the sleeve from the last college party you attended and every time you wear that hoodie and see that stain, it makes you remember all the amazing friends and parties and love and happiness that you once felt, but now seems so far in the past. Well, if you allow that to sink in, then I can imagine that those imagined stories that have been Endowed into/onto the hoodie might trigger in you a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. But if you did not Endow that into/onto the hoodie, then the hoodie itself serves you no purpose to help you fulfill your acting obligations and you would need to look elsewhere to help you bring to life the emotional obligation.

So...take the time to Endow EVERYTHING on the set that you encounter so you are surrounded by potential triggers that can help you fulfill your obligations and responsibilities of the script.

Inside the Toolbox, there are many videos that explore the practical application of Endowments to help you fulfill the emotional and character obligations. So, if you're not a member of the TOOLBOX yet, please consider JOINING THE TOOLBOX.

And if you're not sure about joining the Toolbox just yet, that's ok, I'd still love for you to sign up for the email list by clicking HERE and scrolling down just below the Toolbox logo.

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.

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