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How to Be in the Moment Without Really Trying

Guest Writer:  Richard Seyd  |  www.seydways.com The experience of being in the moment is real. Many times it’s what provides the true joy in acting. Every actor who has been in the moment while performing knows this, as only then does the work become effortless, spontaneous, and utterly creative. Unfortunately, this experience is mostly accidental. Once you’ve been told how important it is to be in the moment, it immediately becomes harder to achieve, because it cannot be achieved by trying. Welcome to the actor’s Catch-22. Many things stop us from being fully spontaneous. More than anything, anticipation keeps us from playing moment to moment; self-doubt and our inner critical voice also play a role. When I began teaching and actors improvised in my workshops, I often found their work to be free and impulsive. When I gave the same actors a script, this sense of limitlessness disappeared. They worked too hard, struggled under self-created emotional obligations, drilled their lines by rote, and clung to “objectives” like life rafts. They made choices, created beats, worked out how to say this or that line, and varied their inflections — all in the attempt to create a foundation for consistent work. But I came to believe this process meant their work was in the moment far less than it should be, and often they themselves articulated a sense that it wasn’t working. I concluded that the way these actors were absorbing the text profoundly affected their ability to perform consistently in the moment. Instead of memorizing by rote, I asked them, after they’d read the script a few times, to begin working on their characters by breaking down their lines — I prefer the phrase “expressed thoughts” — into the smallest moments that made sense. Usually this means simply going sentence by sentence. Then I asked them to look at what causes each moment to happen. We worked on the assumption that their character isn’t aware of an objective all the time, that they are more often responding instinctively to what has just happened. Good writers write instinctively; they don’t plot out…[ click here to read the full post ]

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