Seriously, That IS the question.
I am going to ask you a question and I want you to answer it truthfully. Don't give any thought to what you think the right answer is - as if there is even such a thing as a right answer. OK, here's the question. "When you are on stage or in front of the camera, performing the scene, is it more important for you to truthfully feel the feelings that the character is supposed to be feeling in the moment or is it more important that, regardless of what you are actually feeling in the moment, that the audience perceives you are 'in feeling'?" Asked another way, "If you do not truthfully feel the feelings, but you work through a process (like use one of the many acting craft tools inside the Actor's Approach Craft Technique Toolbox) that makes the audience believe that you are truthfully feeling the feelings - even if you're emotionally dead inside - have you done your job as an actor? Or are you only doing 'good acting' (as if 'good acting' is something that can be measured) if you actually feel feelings in the moment?"
Closely related to those questions is this, "Can you do 'good acting' even if you are not feeling the emotions that the character is supposed to feel?" Another way to ask this question is, "Does being 'in feeling' equal 'good acting'?" And, "If you are 'in feeling,' but the audience is unaffected by your emotional state, have you done your job as an actor just because you have felt something while performing, despite the fact that your emotions have made no impact on the audience?" All of these questions are related and touch upon a very important topic in acting and that is this:
"WHAT IS THE ACTOR'S JOB?"
Is the actor's job to truthfully feel something while performing or is the actor's job simply to tell the story, to entertain, to educated, to inform, to effect, to transport, to shock, to challenge, the audience and what you, the actor, is actually feeling during the performance is secondary, and almost irrelevant?" I said at the beginning, there is no right or wrong answer here. It is personal choice. I will just give you some thoughts to think about to help you formulate your opinion.
Let's pretend that you are on stage in a musical, broken-hearted and in a fully emotional state of sadness with tears flowing freely. And let's say that you are supposed to sing a song, but your emotions are so powerful to you that they have sabotaged your ability to breathe and take the full breath needed to sustain the notes. And the result is a poorly delivered, off-pitch, choppy song that intermittently goes in and out. Do you think that the audience is going to receive that part of the performance well, be effected by it and even enjoy it? You're really feeling something, so shouldn't that be enough? In general, the answer is, No. In this case, even though you are truthfully 'in feeling' and feeling the feelings that the character should feel in the moment, your true emotional life has created an obstacle that prevents you from doing your job as an actor, which in this case, is to simply sing the song.
In this example, you've put more importance on reaching an emotional state than in singing the song well. Any trained actor would know that they've gone too far and behaved almost in a self-serving manner because they believed that if they truly are 'in feeling' then the audience will be equally effected and love their performance. This is flawed logic, especially in musicals, when the audience has come to hear some amazing songs sung by some amazing artists. So why should this philosophy be any different for dramas or comedies? Do actors put too much emphasis on a belief that if they do not authentically feel the emotion that they are then being fake and the audience will know they are 'acting'? Where did all this importance on authentic emotional life come from and why is it so rooted in the minds and hearts of so many actors? I am not here to give you answers, but rather to challenge you to think about this topic and help you formulate your own answers. There is not just one path through this acting journey and we are all entitled to our own opinions and approaches. And if the audience receives your work and is effected by it, then your approach has worked for you and that audience in that moment. But as you think about these questions, be open to new ideas to help expand your toolbox and your approach to the art and craft of acting.
CAN YOU DO ME A FAVOR?
If I could ask one thing of you, it would be this - share this Blog with some of your actor friends and have a conversation about it. Let this be the prompt to a thoughtful discussion with other actors and debate both sides strongly. The more we challenge our belief systems, the more we learn and grow and audiences will benefit from our commitment and dedication to our craft. I look forward to one day reading your thoughts posted online somewhere and in turn, I hope your comments will help teach me something new that I hadn't thought of before. Bye for now, See you inside the Toolbox. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.actorsapproach.com Linktree: https://linktr.ee/actorsapproachcrafttoolbox