Now that we’ve resumed Affectable and done the refresher sessions, it’s time to delve into deeper work. Affectable is a very simple system, but it involves a great deal of self-awareness and engagement with your surroundings. (I would argue that regardless of the system/s that you follow, any good acting requires these things.)
Over the next few weeks we’ll not only be continuing with the Affectable exercises, we’ll also be looking at connections between voice and body, engagement with the senses and the things we can learn by examining what attracts and repels us. Much of what we’re doing is designed to get the actor out of the habit of using general ideas so they can make use of their own individual responses without judging or censoring themselves. Essentially, the aim is to get to the stage where you can answer the question “how does this make you feel” without having to stop and think or second-guess the correct answer. There is no correct answer. There are only truthful and untruthful answers.
It might seem that we’re trying to do something that’s terribly obvious, since many people seem to believe that they know themselves well. But scratch the surface, start asking the right questions and you quickly discover how little thought people give to themselves and their surroundings. It’s a good first step for an actor (or indeed a non-actor) to have the humility to accept that they have more to learn. We all do.
However, that’s on the brink of becoming a post in its own right, and since I’m actually supposed to be having a day off rather than writing blog posts I’ll resist the temptation and save it for later. Back to the steps we’re taking to achieve this state of self-awareness…
First, to satisfy the practical side of Affectable as an acting system, I’m asking all members to choose a monologue to work on. It can be anything they like – a potential audition speech, a resurrected piece that they didn’t feel they nailed previously, a speech that really calls to them but would never be their casting, a speech that should be their casting but that they kick against. Line-learning starts at this week’s sessions.
Second, a more ambitious exercise – I’ve asked everyone to find a premise for a solo performance. This is not to say that all or any of these will come to fruition, but it’s useful even if they don’t. I got the idea from a workshop with Miriam Margolyes, who suggested that all actors should have a solo show in development at any time so that they’re never stuck for an answer to the horrible question “So, what are you doing at the moment?”. I tend to agree with her. It’s a good idea to have something that keeps you ticking over artistically between jobs, and creating a solo show gives you an insight into several different disciplines as you have to think like an actor, a writer, a director, a dramaturg, a designer, perhaps even a producer. Understanding these roles will make you a better actor, if not in your practice then definitely as a colleague.
Quite apart from the practical concerns, creating a solo show teaches you a massive amount about yourself. To do it well, you have to be prepared to bring a great deal of your own personality and observation to it even if the character and situation are far removed from you. The best solo pieces involve a high level of technical accomplishment, but also a great deal of honesty and courage – there’s nothing worse than watching an hour-long wank by someone who wants their time in the spotlight but isn’t prepared to give the audience anything of themselves. It’s an intimate project by its very nature.
At the moment, all I’m asking for is ideas. I want people to think about the subject matter that interests them (and/or repels them). Whether it’s a particular event, time, experience, image – this week’s sessions will be all about starting points, and we’ll see where we go from there…