TENSION, THE ACTOR'S NEMESIS

FACT: TENSION, at some level, blocks your ability to connect to your imagination, your senses, your emotions, your memories, your body, your instincts, your scene partner, and to the material.

TENSION is often thought of by actors as the #1 killer of moments.


Let me prove it to you with a simple physical test.

Find a safe place to do this exercise.

Either get into a plank position (like a push-up) and lock your arms straight or stand on 1 leg and don't hold onto anything, just balance.

Hold that position for 60 seconds.

NOW, while your body is beginning to feel some level of physical tension, do the following:

  1. Solve the math problem of 63 x 4.

  2. Sensorily create the feel of a cold snow storm hitting your face.

  3. Say the lines of any classical monologue you have previously memorized.

  4. In alphabetical order, list the names of 7 playwrights that you admire.

  5. Imagine the taste of mushy pasta in a garlic and oil sauce.

OK - that's enough torture for now. Go ahead and release the Plank (push-up) position or put your raised leg down so you are standing on your 2 feet.


Take a few deep breaths and allow your muscles to calm down. Allow your heart to settle as you regain your balance. Continue to breathe.


Now, find a safe and comfortable place to either sit or lay down and take a few moments to breathe and relax even more.


Now that you're in a more relaxed state as compared to when you were in the plank position or standing on 1 leg, let's re-explore the same 5 questions.

  1. Solve the math problem of 63 x 4.

  2. Sensorily create the feel of a cold snow storm hitting your face.

  3. Say the lines of any classical monologue you have previously memorized.

  4. In alphabetical order, list the names of 7 playwrights that you admire.

  5. Imagine the taste of mushy pasta in a garlic and oil sauce.

OK- you are done with the experiment. Now let's discuss.

When you compare what you experienced, did you find that you had more success and an easier time while tense or while relaxed?


Nearly every actor that I've shared this simple exercise with admits and agrees that the version with tension was less fulfilling and less successful than the version in a more relaxed state. In my opinion, it's only the actors that are lying to me and themselves that say version 1 was easier.


This exercise proves that TENSION, at some level, blocks your ability to connect to your imagination, your senses, your emotions, your memories, your body, your instincts, your scene partner, and to the material.


SO WHAT DO ACTORS NEED TO DO

TO ADDRESS AND RELEASE THE TENSION?


It's quite simple...

RELAX!


Actors must find a process that works for them to identify, address and release tension in their body.


There are many exercises for Physical Tension, like:

  • Tense & Release: which is when you flex each muscle in your body and then relax the muscles, one by one, moving up from the feet to the top of the head and back down again

  • Lazy River: which is when you use your senses to create the reality of floating on an inner tube or a raft on a cool lazy river, allowing the warmth of the sun, the fresh outdoors and the cool water to transform

Sometimes when you're feeling stuck or blocked and your "instrument" is all "backed up" you need find a way to rid your body of the emotional, mental and psychological tension because tension is not always just a physical thing.

In cases like these, you need to address your Instrumental blocks head on.

  • If you're experiencing the tension of feeling "less than" and "down on yourself", try pumping up your ego by dancing around, standing like a super-hero, singing loudly, or saying out loud all your amazing accomplishments, positive qualities and attributes.

  • If you're experiencing the tension of being all blocked and locked up, try picking up a pillow and smashing it against the floor, screaming and cursing at the top of your lungs.

  • If you're experiencing the tension and stress of not being able to focus, try looking around the room and find everything that is black, then white, then red, then blue. Then find everything that is soft or hard or man-made or organic. Or maybe ask yourself, "How Do I Feel?" and answer it and keep asking the same question until you get to the answer of, "I feel good. I feel focused. I feel relaxed. I feel ready."

Tension comes in all shapes and sizes and it's something that actors must learn to address or it will destroy your work.


Inside the Toolbox, I teach many tools to help you address the tension in your body and mind. If you are not yet a Toolbox member, please consider joining.


To learn more acting craft tools, consider joining the Toolbox where you'll be able to watch over 45 hours of acting craft training across 375 videos that teach you practical and attainable craft techniques.


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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.

Email: actorsapproachtoolbox@gmail.com

Website: http://www.actorsapproach.com

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/actorsapproachcrafttoolbox


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