In an Actors’ Studio interview, Ralph Fiennes said that in his audition for RADA he was told not to make it happen but to let it happen. And that that advice changed his work.
And here are many ways of saying it, so it might sink in. Because when I first heard “get out of your own way”, “leave yourself alone” at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, I didn’t get it.
And it can’t be stressed enough. YOU NEED TO BE VERY PRESENT – much more than you are in every day life. Ask any actor or athlete. If they wander for a second from the “scene” or the “ball” and what is happening around them, they miss a beat and the audience, fellow players/actors know and everything is way off.
“I do what works. I believe that acting is a wilderness and that just as you reach a clearing, feeling safe and secure, it’s time to march back into the wilderness. I subscribe to no method, no school, no approach. Providing an actor can speak, move, read English, and memorize, the rest is up for grabs.
There are, of course, certain basics. You must own your lines as you own your own toes. You must know what they mean and you must mean them when you say them. But, that done, the mystery of acting will remain your lifetime companion.
I have learned most from audiences, too often ignored by actors, as if somehow doing it for them is contrary to the truth of their art. Audiences have to hear you, they have to understand you, and they must be moved to laughter or tears by what you do. It is their comfort actors must consider – their pleasure. Actors send life across the footlights and audiences send back the reward.
It is, of course, not as simple as all that. If it were, anyone could do it, and anyone can’t. You need breath, stamina, skill and talent. The first three you can acquire, the latter you can’t. If you are blessed with talent, respect it and cherish it.
Young actors should, early on, rid themselves of the notion that there is a “right” way to act. There is only what works and, in order to come close to what works each night, an actor cannot burden himself with anything that does not result in the truth of the moment, and in the communication of that truth to his audience.
There is much to learn from the investigation of all theories, all styles of acting, and all approaches. But after he absorbs all he needs, the actor must be ready to forget it. He must take a deep breath, call upon his stamina and skill, trust in his talent and go out there and be.
All else is a wilderness in which the actor must happily wander.”
“In the Kabuki theatre, there is a gesture which indicates ‘looking at the moon’, where the actor points into the sky with his index finger. One actor, who was very talented, performed this gesture with grace and elegance. The audience thought: “Oh, his movement is so beautiful!” They enjoyed the beauty of his performance, and the technical mastery he displayed.
Another actor made the same gesture, pointing at the moon. The audience didn’t notice whether or not he moved elegantly; they simple saw the moon.”