Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Tao of Acting

I came across something on the web which solidified for me what acting was all about. It is called the Tao of Acting by Ken Plonkey.

For years I have not found a suitable acting system out there which I could identify with. For years I would hear people talking in theatre about their various systems and teaching methods, none of which I could identify with. I could not see why anyone would need to spend three to four years in a theatre school. I have first-hand anecdotal evidence that suggests that going to theatre school worsens an actor's abilities.

All that mumbo jumbo about studying the text, and the subtext, and objectives, about cultist Mask Work, about unlicensed psychotherapy, about discarding what an actor is good at, about ruining an actor's confidence, about confessionals, about going to theatre school and not performing, about acting a colour, about the draining of emotions, about analyzing the text, all that seemed foreign to me, because I know full well, that over the centuries actors have succeeded with different methods of acting, that styles change, that what works for one actor does not work for another.

The key to acting lies in performance; not in the absence of performance. The less time one spends on stage the less skilled one becomes, the less time that the actor's talent is realized. Practice makes perfect, but it is the practice on the stage under the lights, not in the shadows, not in rooms without an audience. The actor's best teacher is the audience. Judge, jury and executioner. One cannot learn acting without the presence and the teachings of the audience.

When I was pointed in the direction of The Tao of Acting, I realized that other people in theatre shared my views. Read the Tao of Acting. I will not explain what it is, for I wish you to take that journey yourself. Any actor who wishes to succeed should read it. I will just quote a little bit of what Ken said to me:

'Tao acting is also partially based on the early idea of Stanislavsky that the actor's personality is the key to an honest, creative and vulnerable performance. That is the key. Method Acting and all the others want the actor to create a character, but the playwright has already done that. Tao acting asks that the actor use himself as the character, wedding his emotional responses to the dialog and action of the play'

Just to add Ken's point; Stanislavsky was also trying to exercise the actor's imagination, to break them from the methods of acting that Russian actors had been taught. He had joined up with the Russian writer, Anton Chekov, to create reality on stage, and to create that reality, the Russian actor had to learn to imagine.

Read these two articles: 'Modern Times Need Modern Methods" and especially, "Tao and the Art of Acting"

I highly recommend it!


Anonymous said...

I think the danger of the tao method though is that if the actor relies only on her own emotional reactions to the text and the other actors, then there is a danger of not living up to the character which the playwright has imagined. An actor reacting taoistically to Situation A may not be doing so consistently with the character as written. Isn't it more important for the actor to step out of himself, to inhabit the murderer or abuser or politician, and not to rely merely on his own personal reactions?

Anonymous said...

There is no "method" to acting. Look at the babies, kids, children, animals and insects in movies and plays. What is their "method". Acting is simply an opinion. It is impossible for everyone to agree to a standard or performer as being the best. Who performs greater in movies? Laurence Olivier? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Denzel Washington? Jamie Foxx? The more names I add the more ridiculous this looks. Get a life!